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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Truth Unveiled
For over 70 years the traditional story has been told: how Al Capone decided to eliminate his chief rivals in one mass slaughter, using a booze hijack to lure them into their garage headquarters, to be mowed down by machine gunners in police uniforms. Most of this pure fiction. The real story of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre has been largely buried in FBI files since...
Published on February 3, 2004 by Rick "Mad Dog" Mattix

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strong Points Or Weak Points? It's Your Preference.
If you enjoy books that have 1001 points of trivia in them, you'll love this. It's jam packed with facts. It's clear the authors researched exhaustively.

For me it was exhausting, too. Some true crime books have a tendency to deteriorate into an spider web of tangentially related facts and read like reports instead of narratives. This is one of them. I now...
Published on November 6, 2008 by Coyote


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strong Points Or Weak Points? It's Your Preference., November 6, 2008
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This review is from: The St. Valentine's Day Massacre: The Untold Story of the Gangland Bloodbath That Brought Down Al Capone (Paperback)
If you enjoy books that have 1001 points of trivia in them, you'll love this. It's jam packed with facts. It's clear the authors researched exhaustively.

For me it was exhausting, too. Some true crime books have a tendency to deteriorate into an spider web of tangentially related facts and read like reports instead of narratives. This is one of them. I now know the street addresses of dozens of gangsters, a dozen pseudonyms for each as well as multiple spelling variants for those pseudonyms. I know the names of relatives. I know the names of various reporters and photographers and the paths they took to the crime scene. We got a seeming word for word recital of every meeting of the coroner's investigation, were told which meetings got postponed and by whom, were informed of the several addresses they were held at and even the exact room numbers. We got a roll call of who was present. After slogging through pages and pages of testimony that to me seemed banal and utterly uninformative, the author sums it up by declaring that the coroner's investigation yielded nothing much of interest.

Yeah, that's what I was thinking. So why did we get the blow by blow instead of the few leads that actually contributed to the investigation? Why did we hear about every dead end in detail, only to be informed that... it was indeed a dead end.

And yet, with all that information, as another reviewer pointed out, Bugs Moran and the other North Siders were glossed over.

So that's my take on it. If you are fond of books that are like tossed salads of facts, this is your kind of book. It's a trivia lover's dream. If you like an author to sift out the important details and give you a sequential, streamlined narrative (that's me) this book will drag.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Truth Unveiled, February 3, 2004
For over 70 years the traditional story has been told: how Al Capone decided to eliminate his chief rivals in one mass slaughter, using a booze hijack to lure them into their garage headquarters, to be mowed down by machine gunners in police uniforms. Most of this pure fiction. The real story of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre has been largely buried in FBI files since 1935 though evidence pointing to the actual killers was available almost from the beginning. Helmer and Bilek have uncovered the truth about this most infamous gangland slaughter which rather than entrenching Capone as the master of Chicago actually signalled his downfall. A fascinating study of a mass murder no one in authority seems to have really wanted solved. Marvelously written and out just in time for Valentine's Day!
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Culminating Event That Backfired, February 12, 2004
By 
Bill Emblom "Bill Emblom" (Ishpeming, Michigan USA) - See all my reviews
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William Helmer, author of the recent page turner on Baby Face Nelson, along with Arthur Bilek, have provided us with another superb effort on the infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre just in time for its 75th anninversary. This brazen event was not pleasing to the New York mob because it drew too much attention to federal authorities and the public in general. Although Al Capone didn't know it at the time his heyday as the Chicago crime czar were on the downswing, with Frank Nitti ready to take his place. Many of the details have remained under wraps for many years, and the authors state the book is largely "the product of the personal memories and cooperative interrogations of Georgette Winkeler" whose husband Gus was involved with "his partners in crime." All the characters of the 1920's and early 1930's Chicago crime era are here in all their infamy. The authors show how ballistic evidence was used to identify two machine guns that Fred "Killer" Burke had in his possession when he was arrested for the murder of a police officer in St. Joseph, Michigan, as being guns used in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. The authors relate how J. Edgar Hoover closed his mind to the existence of any organized crime, instead focusing on two bit hoodlums such as Dillinger, Nelson, and Floyd. Hoover comes across as a ego maniac who became disgustingly jealous of the recognition that came agent Melvin Purvis's way following the killing of John Dillinger. Hoover had Purvis "reassigned", and Purvis finallly quit the F.B.I. in frustration. Hoover then made it a point to make sure Purvis could not find any other work in law enforcement. Finally when Purvis died of a gunshot wound in 1960, the F.B.I. made it seem as though it was a suicide, even though evidence showed it to be accidental. Even though you may be well versed in Chicago crime lore you will find new information in this book, and want to make it a permanent part of your personal library. I did find a few spelling errors that got by the editor, but it in no way detracts from the book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breaking ground alone is worth five stars, August 16, 2007
This review is from: The St. Valentine's Day Massacre: The Untold Story of the Gangland Bloodbath That Brought Down Al Capone (Paperback)
I'll be up front about two things before reviewing this book. The first is that one of the authors, Bill Helmer, is a close friend of long standing. The second is that I am a True Crime author myself, with a first-hand knowledge of the difficulties that accompany the research and writing of this kind of story: inaccurate newspaper coverage, carelessly compiled police reports, and of course the passage of time, which slowly and mercilessly kills off the survivors of the era who could have shed new light on a long-ago event. To cover a 1929 mass murder that the law enforcement agencies of the day chose to downplay for their own reasons is an enormous challenge that Bill Helmer and Art Bilek met with a commendable degree of success.

"St. Valentine's Day Massacre: The Untold Story of the Gangland Bloodbath That Brought Down Al Capone" is the first book to take a serious crack at the mystery surrounding the killing of seven Bugs Moran followers in a freezing Chicago garage in February 1929. The genesis of the murder plot, the identities of the actual shooters, and their subsequent fates are described in a breezy style that makes the book appeal to the casual reader as well as the more hardcore historian who wants "just the facts, ma'am."

One of the more knowledgeable parties who read the book was George 'Bugs' Moran's surviving son, who vividly remembers the day the Massacre took place and recalls the frantic aftermath like it was yesterday. He told me recently that Helmer and Bilek's account of the crime tallies neatly with what his father had to say about the subject over the years. He admitted to enjoying it immensely.

A previous reviewer criticized the book for not offering a thorough list of sources. It's only been in the last few years that detailed footnoting and bibliography lists that exceed the content itself in page count have been proper form outside of academic texts and histories approached from a scholarly perspective. When my first book, "Guns and Roses", came out in 2003, I was told that notes weren't really necessary. I insert them as a matter of course now, but my point in all this is that Bill Helmer and Art Bilek made no serious errors of omission in this area.

"St. Valentine's Day Massacre: The Untold Story of the Gangland Bloodbath That Brought Down Al Capone" is by far the most definitive account of the Massacre that has been published to date. And if that's not enough, it also has the seal of approval from the surviving Morans. That fact in itself should more than compensate for a couple of repeated sentences or anorectic footnoting style.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very well written and researched book., July 26, 2006
If there is a crime scene that seems frozen in time it is inside a garage in Chicago on an icy cold day with blowing snow, as the 7 victims of the St Valentine's day massacre seem to stand forever up against a wall with their backs to their executioners. This scene has been written about and enacted in films countless times. Now this excellent book comes along to explain the events that lead up to this day, what happened on the day and the ripple effects it caused in the years afterward.

The authors have written a convincing, well researched and very enjoyable history book that contains plenty of information about the event and also about the workings of the mafia and other criminal gangs that existed in Chicago during the 1920's and 1930's . The authors contend that evidence about the massacre and what happened on the day itself was known to the FBI and Hoover in particular by 1935, but was deliberately ignored and buried away. Why you may ask but l would suggest you obtain and read this fascinating book to find out for yourself.

The book contains some great photos of this era including a smiling Capone, a pensive Moran, around the crime scene itself including crowds that flocked to the massacre scene in its aftermath, a few other notable criminals and police officers plus there is an excellent array of cartoons and newspaper headlines from the various newspapers of 20's and 30's. There is also a very informative and detailed crime and corruption chronology of Chicago at the back of the book which covers the years from 1900 to 1967. The authors have convinced me of their portrayal of what happened on the day and of who the planners, killers and participants in the massacre were.

If anybody wishes to read further about the life of Al Capone l would suggest the excellent book "Mr. Capone" by Robert Schoenberg, if George (Bugs) Moran is more your style you can read about his life in the superb book ' The Man Who got Away" by Rose Keefe.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Save Ninety Minutes: TheTitle Says It All, March 22, 2007
This review is from: The St. Valentine's Day Massacre: The Untold Story of the Gangland Bloodbath That Brought Down Al Capone (Paperback)
Since I can still vividly recall when the Roger Corman film "The St.

Valentine's Day Massacre" had its broadcast premiere on network television many years ago, I was eager to read this "definitive" new account of the 1929 mass murder on North Clark Street.

Unfortunately,

I regret to state, this book proved to be a disappointment.

Clearly, the authors, William J. Helmer and Arthur J. Bilek, both know the subject, but their book is less than satisfactory. Most of my specific questions were left unanswered and I did not glean much new information from reading the book.

The book is poorly organized. It seems as if the two authors divided the writing workload and submitted chapters separately without conferring with one and other. As a result, there is a tendency towards disjointed repetitiveness. After reading for the third or fourth time that the 1924 assassination of Dean O'Banion ignited open gang warfare between the North Side gang and the Torrio-Capone mob, I think the point had been established sufficiently.

Did anyone proofread the final manuscript? This book would have benefited from editorial revisions and simple fact checking. I had to stop counting the misstatements, incorrect dates and other clearly erroneous collateral facts before I got a headache. Illinois did not hold two General Elections during November of 1924, but, according to the chronology, Cook County officials and President

Coolidge were elected on separate dates. Similarly, the Black Sox

Trial did not take place in the Federal District Court.

There is some solid writing here and there, but, taken as a whole, it seems as if the book was compiled in great haste to meet an arbitrary publication deadline. Transitions are handled clumsily and the text meanders too much. It is not always necessary that everything be placed in strict chronological order for a historical account to be effective, but it would have helped in this case. The profiles of the principal gangsters and Chicago politicians are merely stereotypical thumbnail sketches. The meager bibliography and footnotes do not merit attention.

The best portions of the book describe the coroner's inquest and pioneering efforts in the field of ballistic testing. There is also a lengthy discussion of how the Federal Bureau of Investigation failed to cooperate with local law enforcement authorities and withheld information that may have provided a solution to the criminal investigation years later. The photographs, editorial cartoons and newspaper headlines, however, are well chosen and will be of interest to most readers.

As a topic, this true crime book held great promise and potential, but the execution was lacking (no pun intended). The final result is akin to having a pair of honor students earn a "C-" on their combined term paper after pulling an all nighter rather than applying themselves diligently and earning the "A+" that the entire class knows that they are well capable of. Someday, I hope that a revised edition of the book will set the record straight.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars For Me, A Boring Read, April 21, 2010
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This review is from: The St. Valentine's Day Massacre: The Untold Story of the Gangland Bloodbath That Brought Down Al Capone (Paperback)
Try as I might, this was one book I simply could not get into. The authors obviously deserve credit for having exhaustively and meticulously researched their material, and they offer an original spin on the motives behind the mass slaughter and the identity of the assassins who committed it. For that alone, there are those who may feel it should rate at least a three-star review. My problem was the writing, which I found so dull and fragmented that I could not in all honesty give it a higher rating than I have. It's hard to believe that this was co-written by the same William J. Helmer who contributed to two of my favorite crime biographies, "Dillinger: The Untold Story" and "Baby Face Nelson."
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At last an acurate picture of the story to match that gruesome photo, January 13, 2007
I have always wondered what the Moran gang was doing in that garage when they were gunned down and always believed the story about the bootleg liquor was somewhat lacking.Considering that the men gunned down were all the upper echelon of the Moran gang(minus "Bugs" luckily for him)how could they have been taken so completely unawares? This book tries to honestly answer the question and is backed up with thorough research.Before you leave this book you'll know pretty much who was all involved.The phony cops and hit-men who blasted Moran's gang were on retainer fees by the Capone mob,and people who are being paid well sometimes will be quick to thank their employer,even at the cost of bad judgement.Was the "heat" against the mob generated by the police and government toward Capone's Organization for the massacre worth the financial loss and bad publicity.Capone it seems was never known for astute political decisions anyway and "what the heck,"one less competetor for the booze and "racket "industry.From a read of this book as you see the blank smile of Capone it reminds one of a Hendrix line "smiling with tombstones in their eyes". As I reached the end I was about to congratulate myself because I have found a book in which there is no"J. Hoover bungling". Then I got to the chapter titled the "Crime Noone wanted Solved".That sounded Machiavellian so I figured out Hoover was in it.Yep!
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new insight to the old story, November 9, 2006
This book sheds light on to an old subject that has for years had people wondering about the true facts of the St. Valentines Day Massacre, I have enjoyed reading it and I am very glad that I bought the book so that I could at last learn all the true facts about this event.

It's a good book and a good read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best Popular Account of the "massacre" in print, March 15, 2008
By 
J. Collins (Las Vegas, NV USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The St. Valentine's Day Massacre: The Untold Story of the Gangland Bloodbath That Brought Down Al Capone (Paperback)
Most people know at least the outline of the St Valentine's Day Massacre: Hoods dressed as cops mowed down members of the Moran gang, who were lured to the SMC Cartage Company to take consignment of liquor from Detroit. Moran, the primary target, escaped from Capone's killers. In this account, Messrs Blek and Helmer make use of a previously neglected primary source; a memoir from the wife of one of the participants. They also investigate the FBI archives, and make a convincing case that Hoover deliberately withheld information that would've solved the murders. Along the way, the authors also show that the commonly accepted explanation for Moran's top leaders being in the same place at the same time, is seriously flawed. First, these guys did NOT do manual labor (unloading whiskey cases); they weren't dressed for it-or a daylong trip to Detroit. Second, due to increased US Customs activity on the Great Lakes, Canadian exporters insisted on "Cash and Carry"-so a "delivery" was unlikely at best. Finally, even after the massacre, the average Chicagoan, while knowing of Capone, considered him a Cicero gangster even in 1929. Most of his reputation was built after his downfall in the 1930s.
The authors also tie in the Frankie Yale murder, and show how at the time revolutionary ballistics research linked Yale's murder to the massacre; but neither the press nor the police were overly interested in that fact (which would've directly implicated Capone). The account goes beyond just the massacre and its aftermath, to clearly show how it contributed to Capone's decline in Chicago crime. The book is fully footnoted, and includes an excellent chronology of organized crime in Chicago, from Big Jim Colossimo around 1910 to the suicide of Frank Nitti. Overall, if you have an interest in the massacre itself, or in the gangster era, this is a highly recommended resource.
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