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Brothers Notorious: The Sheltons - Southern Illinois' Legendary Gangsters Paperback – 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 310 pages
  • Publisher: Downstate Publications (2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0971071802
  • ISBN-13: 978-0971071803
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #755,251 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Edward D. Terhune on September 23, 2003
Format: Paperback
Finding a book dealing with American organized crime is not a difficult task. Indeed, such books are ubiquitous- a small library could be created out of the books written about John Gotti and his various associates. The problem is finding a book that is accurate, historically sound, and entertaining, as well. Taylor Pensoneau has covered all the bases with this volume. He writes with a credible reporter's accuracy. Just as important, however, is that this book is never boring. This is a chapter of American organized crime that few people will find familiar. The stereotypical gangster is generally portrayed as an urban Italian or, in more rare cases, a Jew. The Sheltons were rural WASPs, but at their height, they were as powerful and ruthless as an Al Capone or a Lucky Luciano. Their personalities were diverse: there was personable Carl, who acted as their boss, and there was the sullen, brutal Bernie, who acted as their enforcer. Despite this diversity, they both ended their lives violently. Thankfully, however, Personeau avoids the simplistic morality of some organized crime books, which pit virtuous Government representatives against the pernicious, immoral racketeer. The reality of organized crime is that it could never exist without the active participation and/or connivance of those in the world of business and politics. Pensoneau demonstrates this clearly in his writing.Read more ›
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Rick "Mad Dog" Mattix on March 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
Among the legends of the Prohibition era, the Shelton-Birger gang war, perhaps because of its rural setting, has been long overlooked by most gangster books and it's a shame. A lot of stuff happened outside New York and Chicago. In the mid-to-late '20's, the Birger and Shelton gangs rivaled Capone's Chicago beer wars in terms of both publicity and body count. Spectacularly so, with not only machine guns but armored trucks and even the first aerial bombing in U.S. history. What Gary DeNeal did for Charlie Birger, Taylor Pensoneau has now done admirably for his rivals. Birger was hanged in 1928 but the Shelton boys continued to prosper, in bootlegging, gambling and labor racketeering until the late '40's, when their story came to a violent end and this well researched and highly readable account tells the whole story. Read up, Hollywood--the Sheltons deserve a movie!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By MWA on July 17, 2010
Format: Paperback
Our family moved around the state of Illinois and I was fortunate to experience life in the southern part of the state in "Bloody Williamson County" for several of my youngest years. My father always spoke of the conflicts between the "Shelton Brothers and Charlie Birger", but I could never really read or study much about them. This author has really put all of the pieces of the puzzle together. Prohibition, the Klan, politics, crime, religion, et al. I studied and taught Illinois History and even Robert Howard's fantastic book on the history of the Land of Lincoln did not have much to say on this subject. Thanks to Taylor Pensoneau for finally and lucidly bringing to print what had been an important lawless period in state history. Your newspaper credentials really shine on this one, Taylor! You, Paul Angle, and Mike Royko are indeed members of the same club.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alicia Crumpton on October 19, 2013
Format: Paperback
I smile when I hear people talk about southern Illinois who aren't familiar with the history. They might say something like - We drove through there, it's such an idyllic unspoiled place. And they're right particularly the physical beauty of the region; Southern Illinois is not a Pollyanna bubble-gummy region historically. Brothers Notorious is but one example of the rich, juicy history of organized crime in the region. The Shelton's are sometimes referred to as "America's Bloodiest Gang" which only provides a glimpse into their reign.

Pensoneau provided an on the edge of your seat description of the Shelton Gang's reign in southern Illinois history. This is a must read if you like to read about organized crime, context, culture, and history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By raider on February 4, 2011
Format: Paperback
Great Reading. I have a lot of books on southern IL history & crime. This is one not to be missed. No need for me to repeat what the other reviews say, they are correct. Anybody interested in organized crime in Southern Illinois will enjoy this book. Capone may have ran Chicago, but The Shelton Brothers & Charlie Birger ran the rest of the state.
Yes Yes Yes would make a great movie. They didn't call it Bloody Williamson County for nothing!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Hugh Hubble on November 5, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Hard to believe what went on in rural America in the 20th Century. My father was a country doctor and made many a house call to the Shelton family with me bouncing along as his shield so he would not be mistaken for a Shelton. This book is throughly researched and organized to be a good page turner.
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Format: Paperback
Expanding on the 1950s-era work of Paul Angle, Taylor Pensoneau has done a masterful job of capturing the lives and times of the Shelton brothers. Imagine if the fictional Corleone family had populated rural Southern Illinois rather than NYC, and you get some idea as to the reach and power of Carl, Earl, and Bernard Shelton. Pensoneau spent untold hours interviewing descendants of the Sheltons and pouring over both official and unofficial records. The Sheltons got their start bootlegging in the area around "Bloody" Williamson County, Illinois, and survived violent battles with both the local KKK and rival gangster Charles Birger. Their empire eventually expanded into East St. Louis and Peoria, and their influence could be felt as far away as St. Louis and Chicago. I especially like Pensoneau's laid-back, informal writing style (it makes me imagine he was telling me these tales over cold beers in the dark recesses of a Herrin saloon.) A crime saga that involves blood feuds, betrayals, armored "tanks", and one of the only instances of offensive aerial bombing on American soil, the fantastic story of the Shelton brothers and their associates comes to life in Taylor Pensoneau's capable hands. In one of the bigger injustices of crime film history, Hollywood continues to recycle the same tired stories about Capone, Dillinger, Luciano, etc., while ignoring the Shelton boys. While they may never get the epic movie they so richly deserve, Carl, Earl, and Bernie would be proud of this book, I strongly recommend it.
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