Most of us know something about John Dillinger. There have been movies, books, newspaper and other media articles about his criminal life. There’s even a club that celebrates annually at the spot where he was killed. But if you ask who William Patrick O’Malley was, you are likely to be met with silence and no recognition of the name.

In all probability, the last words Sergeant O’Malley ever heard came from Dillinger. He was said to have screamed, “Get over. I’ll get that son of a bitch,” just seconds before pointing his Thompson sub-machine gun at Sergeant O’Malley and firing. Eight rounds found their mark across the lawman’s chest. He died at the scene. He was guilty of only one thing. He didn’t know that Dillinger was wearing a bullet-proof vest when he fired at the crook coming out of a bank he had just robbed in East Chicago, Indiana. Others said that Dillinger told the dying police officer, “You asked for it,” before making his escape.

As he died on the street in front of the bank, his wife and three daughters waited for their husband and father to return home at the end of his shift. Sergeant O’Malley was forty-three years old on that day, January 15, 1934. Research indicates that he was likely a veteran of WWI. Little else is known of the man who was murdered by John Dillinger.

Like most funerals for police officers killed in the line-of-duty, thousands turned out for Sergeant O’Malley, including officers from many other jurisdictions. City offices were closed by order of the Mayor. But once he was buried in Calvary Cemetery, just like many of other officers killed in the line-of-duty, his life was largely forgotten. No movies, no books, just a man who gave his life trying to protect society from one of the sorriest humans to ever take a breath, whose name should be erased from our memory and replaced with the hero, William Patrick O’Malley.


Time to visit the past relationship between law-breakers and cops, since the issue has been dominating the news after Ferguson, Mo. and New York City incidents. It's not the first time a segment of society supported thugs over police. One infamous crook robbed police stations, killed a policeman, and became a folk hero, still celebrated today by some.

John Dillinger is better known for robbing banks and being betrayed by a female friend wearing a red dress. The myth is she wore the red dress to the Biograph Movie Theater she attended with Dillinger so the Feds would easily spot them. She actually wore a white blouse and orange skirt, not that anyone cares. Dillinger was shot and killed that night.

But before his death, John Dillinger also walked brazenly into police stations in Auburn, Peru, and Warsaw, Indiana,  and robbed them of their Thompson sub-machine guns, shotguns, and such. In Auburn, officers were locked in their own jail. Dillinger loved the Thompson. He was quoted to have said, “You get more with a simple prayer and a Thompson sub-machine gun than you get from a simple prayer alone.”

During his short life, Dillinger became a folk hero in some circles. Unlike today’s criticism of police, which has strong racial overtones, Dillinger’s supporters were those suffering from the collapse of the economy. Some were poor people who saw Dillinger exacting retribution against the wealthy banks and bankers. They also saw law enforcement as an extension of corrupt government.

Though the F.B.I. denies on its website that Dillinger had any Robin Hood like traits, there are an abundance of anecdotal stories about his giving money to poor children and families who were suffering financially. People who believed the banks were corrupt along with the government (sound familiar?) cheered Dillinger and his gang on for "sticking it to the man." No doubt Dillinger performed some charitable acts, but most of his ill-gotten gains were likely spent by him and his gang.

Now to the Texas connection. There is a club of sorts that has been in existence since 1966 called The John Dillinger Died For You Society. This organization was birthed in Austin, Texas that year at the famous Scholz Garten (sometimes called Scholz Beer Garden) by a group of University of Texas students and their professor. Seems that one of the students had completed his thesis on the subject of the Thompson Machine Gun and was there celebrating with his professor and friends. Sometime, probably after many pitchers of cold beer, they formed the club. Each member was designated as an “assistant treasurer” and authorized to collect dues from any new member, supposedly because that’s the way Saint John would have wanted it.

The Club’s still in existence today! On the anniversary of Dillinger’s death, members trek to the site of the Biograph Theater where Dillinger was gunned down, play the bagpipes, pour beer on the spot where his body lay, and celebrate his…not quite sure what, maybe his notoriety or could it be, just an excuse to lift a mug.

At any rate, for those interested, there are three Facebook pages for The John Dillinger Died For You Society. One is categorized as simply a “public group,” the second as a “church/religious organization” and perhaps the most appropriate is a “bank/financial institution” group. 

William Patrick O'Malley
But most important, do you know the name of the police officer he murdered? That officer's name can't be found in the FBI's story, but he was William Patrick O'Malley, an East Chicago police officer. He left a wife and three children. I'll publish a story about him soon.


Sylvia Dickey Smith
      In 2015 I will dedicate six blog stories to other authors' thoughts and advice on the second phase of writing a book…SELLING it! A number of friends, who believe they have a novel secreted away somewhere deep inside them, have asked about the process of writing and publishing a book. I hope this series of interviews helps answer their questions. I will continue my blog series, Crimes, Criminals, and the Cops Who Chase Them on this site as well.
      Sylvia Dickey Smith is a writer I met at a book festival, where we were both marketing our writing. Since then, I have read much of her work, visited with her about writing, and asked her to be the first author in this series about marketing. Sylvia's most recent novel, Original Cyn, captured my attention because of the title. After reading it, I realized it represents an entirely new side of Sylvia’s story-telling ability. Original Cyn deals with issues that draw the reader in and may cause one to question long-held ideas about people, institutions, forgiveness, and redemption. It is an extraordinary work of fiction.
      Her work includes the Sidra Smart Mystery Series, a historical fiction titled A War of Her Own, and even a cookbook with a catchy name, Sassy Southern, Classy Cajun. Sylvia grew up with the Cajun influence of Southeast Texas, made stops in the Caribbean Island of Trinidad, El Paso, Texas and other U.S. locations. Along the way, she earned a degree in sociology and a post-graduate degree in counseling. As she explains on her website, www.sylviadickeysmith.com, her stories dwell on the wondrous twists and turns of human behavior rooted in her background as a counselor before she became a novelist. Sylvia says, “The tales are fun, sassy, and (according to my fans) darn good reads.” 

      Question:  Before you published your first book, how did you define what success as an author would be and how, if at all, has that changed as your writing career has developed? 

       Answer:  Heck, Larry, before I got my first book published, I defined success as getting it finished and in print! After way too many rejections, I finally landed an agent and the first thing she said was, “I want to sell this as a series, so send me synopsis for two more books.” What? Two more? Good grief, I just got the first one done. I honestly felt like I had nothing left to give—not an iota of an idea. But somehow I squeezed blood out of that turnip. 
      Yes, my definition of success has changed. I now have six novels and a cookbook published. I have won numerous awards, spoken in many writers conferences, mentored other writers, and conducted radio talk shows on writing. Do I define all of that as successful? Well, yes, I suppose so, but am I satisfied with my accomplishments? No way! Still waiting on that movie deal, or that New York Best Seller list… But one thing I have learned—there is an endless supply of stories within me, waiting to be told. 

      Question:  What are your top three marketing strategies, ranked in order of success if possible?

      Answer:  Make it fun—for me, and for readers. Honor those who purchase as well as those who do not purchase. BE EVERYWHERE! TRY EVERYTHING! Give back to the writing community—not as a marketing strategy, but as a way to pay it forward. (Okay, that’s four!)

      Question:  What marketing strategy have you tried that didn’t work for you, if any? 

      Answer:  Signings at bookstores. I have done many, several which were successful; but that strategy seems to have had its heyday and passed on. People are not interested in them. I don’t schedule them anymore.
      Another strategy I rarely do now is drive for hours and pay for a hotel room to set up a booth at book fairs. Several authors I know, like me, don’t do them anymore. It is a good way to gain a certain amount of name recognition, but the expense far outweighs book sales. We just can’t afford it. I will do them, however, if I am on the program and the organization compensates my expenses.

      Question:  Is there a marketing strategy you are not employing that you would like to try? 

      Answer:  Good question. Yes, I’d love to participate in marketing one of my novels after it was made into a movie. Who wouldn’t?

      Question:  What advice would you give aspiring authors about selling their books? 

      Answer:  My advice: If I tell you a hen dips snuff, you better look under her tongue! The same holds true when I tell you to embrace the fact that marketing is fun. True, it can be difficult, time-consuming work. That is exactly why I decided, since it is necessary, to have fun while doing it. 
      We authors often obsess and stress about marketing. Likely that’s because selling or not selling books may well impact whether or not we get another book contract or can afford to publish another book. Even so, don’t let that scare you away from a new way of approaching the activity.
      One day, while stressing over marketing, I decided life is too short and writing way too much fun to allow marketing to leave me feeling negative. So, by an act of will, I reframed the process and ran smack into the law of attraction, which is: When we have fun, we attract people to us. Now, I create enjoyable ways to market my books and set up activities that make me laugh. An example: I spent several days in Orange, a Texas town with a population of 20, 000, as I launched the third book in my Sidra Smart mystery series, Dead Wreckoning. I had tons of fun—and sold 150 books!
      What did I do differently: As my final draft of Dead Wreckoning neared completion, I made pickles and named them after my protagonist, Sidra Smart. Since it is set in bayou country, I labeled them with a comic alligator wearing an apron and red lipstick. I bottled a few dozen jars, affixed the label and took them to the event along with my books. The pickles led folks to my table. One man said he didn’t even like pickles, but bought a jar just because he loved the label. Folks who bought the whole mystery series got a free jar of the pickles wrapped in colorful tissue paper and stuffed into a bag. Customers left with smiles on their faces.
      I sign books in coffee shops, antique stores, and boutique wine shops while an Elvis impersonator sings, at art events, libraries, pharmacies, Mardi Gras celebrations, a crawfish boil—anywhere I can set up a table. I offer something for the customer, like wine and cheese, cookies, sandwiches and coffee, seafood gumbo, crawfish cornbread, etc. If it fits, I dress in costume of a character in one of the books and decorate the table accordingly. Anything that will attract a customer and get them hooked on my books. For example, with A War of Her Own, my first historical fiction, I bought a hot pink Bergdorf Goodman original hat from the 40's to wear. 
      I don’t mean to mislead. There have been events where I sold zero books, but if I find myself in such a situation, I’ve learned to turn the events into fun. I challenge myself to see how many people I can engage in conversation and delight in making a new friend—even if we never see each other again. It is sort of like paying joy forward. Sometimes the person may end up buying my book and sometimes they don’t. But I’m a winner either way.
      So, remember this. If I tell you a hen dips snuff, you better look under her tongue, because snuff is indeed there—and marketing can be fun!

      Question:  Which of your books is a personal favorite?

      Answer:  My favorite book is always my last—my baby—my youngest! In this case, Original Cyn. Writing Original Cyn pushed me harder and deeper than anything I have written to date. I didn’t want to write a book I’d already written. I didn’t want to write a book that simply entertained. I felt compelled to push the envelope. Something that made people think; that shoved me, and my reader, beyond our comfort zone, a book that raised questions. Reviews reveal that is indeed happening.

Visit Sylvia at www.sylviadickeysmith.com, connect with her on Twitter @sylviadsmith or on Facebook.


Amarillo Officer Berry Joe McQuire
After media attention, demonstrations, and the resulting outright assassination of police officers recently, one might think the much-publicized police shooting in Missouri and the death of a resisting suspect on the streets of New York have spawned an unprecedented attack on police. That, however, is not necessarily correct. A segment of American society has always viewed law enforcement as the symbol of repression by government. Officers have been assaulted, spit upon, called "pigs" or worse, and murdered since the inception of organized law enforcement in the U.S, yet little boys and girls still grow up wanting to be cops!

Peace officers’ willingness to risk their lives to perform the duties they swore to carry out never takes a break. Whether activist are demonstrating or civic clubs are bestowing honors on law enforcement, there are thousands of officers patrolling the streets while the rest of us sleep, some of them just seconds away from giving their lives for the values Americans have asked them to uphold.

Even Christmas Day is no exception to the danger inherent in the law enforcement profession. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a total of ninety-one officers have lost their lives in the line-of-duty on this, one of the most sacred of American holidays. At least fifty-four of those deaths were the result of violence perpetrated by some other person, most from gunfire, three from stabbing, two from assault.

Fort Worth Officer Marvin Elton Wills
Texas has suffered the most line-of-duty deaths. Eight Texas officers have lost their lives on Christmas, the first being Officer Absalom Kyle McCarty, a Denison, Texas police officer, who was shot and killed while attempting to arrest a man. The suspect fled and it is not known if he was ever arrested. Other Texas officers kill by gunfire on Christmas are Falls County Deputy Constable Tom H. Loftin (1894) Dallas police officer William McDuff (1896) Fort Worth police officer Marvin Elton Wills (1955) Tulia Assistant Police Chief Robert Henry Potter (1960) and Amarillo police officer Berry Joe McGuire (1980).

As the news media and demonstrators are sensationalizing anti-police sentiments, appealing to that segment of society, including the mentally unstable, the threat is even greater this holiday season. So in the words of Sergeant Bill Esterhaus of the 1980's television series, Hill Street Blues, Hey, let’s be careful out there!


The Black Widow
She was known as La Madrina, the Black Widow, and the Queen of Narco-trafficking, but her name was Griselda Blanco. She was born in Columbia and grew up in the infamous city of Medellin, once considered the most violent city in the world. The city's name is most recognizable as the home of Pablo Escobar, the leader of the Medellin Drug Cartel.

One former lover claimed that Griselda was only eleven years old when she kidnapped a child from a wealthy neighborhood not far from her own home and attempted to ransom the child. She was a pickpocket, a prostitute and a drug dealer. Though she was openly bi-sexual, at age twenty she married her first husband and bore three sons.

Blanco brought her violence and drug-running to the U.S. in the mid 1970’s. She operated in New York, California, and Miami. Griselda had a fourth son by a Columbian lover while in Miami and named him Michael Corleone Blanco. By 2012, he was under house arrest for distribution of cocaine and his three half-brothers had been assassinated in drug related wars.

Griselda Blanco was a violent woman with an explosive temper. She had her lover, the father of Michael, murdered when he argued with her about who would raise their son. While in Miami, one of her enforcers, Chucho Castro, fell into disfavor with Griselda because of a dispute with her son during which he embarrassed the son by kicking him in the rear-end. She ordered that Chucho be murdered, but the assassins fired on Castro while he was driving with a two-year old son, Johnny Castro, missing the target and murdering the child.

One of the assassins, who later testified against Blanco, said at first she was angry that they had failed to kill the elder Castro, but upon learning they had killed the two-year old son, she was happy. She declared that she was now even with Chucho Castro. Charged with only three murders, law enforcement estimated that she was responsible for as many as forty. She is sometimes credited as the person who invented the motorcycle drive-by shooting in the late ‘70’s as she used such murders to strike fear into her competitors and to control her cocaine empire in Florida.

After a plea agreement on the murder charges, Griselda spent time in U.S. prisons before being deported back to Columbia. She had hundreds of enemies, some legitimate citizens such as law enforcement and others rival criminals who knew that she was an unrepentant murderer who would kill a person for nothing more than an insult.

At the age of sixty-nine, as she walked out of a meat market in her hometown of Medellin with her pregnant daughter-in-law, she was gunned down. A motorcycle riding assassin, no doubt exacting revenge for one of her many exhibits of bad behavior, double-cross, or thievery, accomplished the task by shooting her twice in the head. And so ended the life of one of the most despicable women in world history.


Sam the Sailor
USS Robley D. Evans
Samuel Volpendesto was a young sailor in the U.S. Navy, when on May 11, 1945, Japanese kamikaze pilots attacked the destroyer, USS Robley D. Evans. According to Volpendesto’s lawyer, and undisputed by federal prosecutors, he volunteered to risk his life by diving under water into the sinking ship to make repairs so that it could be towed to shallow water. Other sailors were trapped in the bowels of the ship, but had found air pockets where they survived until the ship could be towed. The lawyer said numerous sailors owed their lives to his client. Sam was awarded several medals for his service, including the Bronze Star, which is awarded for acts of heroism.

But Sam Volpendesto came home and apparently failed in several career attempts. Finally, he found a profession at which he succeeded. He associated himself with the Chicago Outfit. He became close to mobster Michael “The Large Guy” Sarno. Although arrested numerous times, he was, according to defense court filings, never convicted of a crime. That came to an end when he was eighty-seven years old.

The U.S. Attorney was investigating the Chicago mob and as a result recorded several of Sam’s conversations with other mobsters. He told of watching another target of the investigation, Sam DeStefano, grind up human body parts in a meat grinder and bounce the severed head of the victim against a wall. He was convicted of bombing a competitor’s video poker business, driving a get-away car in a robbery, and organized criminal activity.

At the age of eighty-seven, Sam stood before the Judge, beside his walker, and pleaded that he wanted to die with honor. He asked that he be allowed to return home, die, and be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The Judge was not amused. The sentence was thirty-five years and he pointed out that he expected Sam to die in prison.

Sam’s attorney swore to fight for his right to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, after a question arose as to whether he still qualified after being sent to prison. There would likely have been no question prior to the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing by Timothy McVey. In 1997, Congress passed a law to prevent those convicted of capital murder from being buried in a national cemetery because McVey was otherwise eligible to be buried there.

Sam Volpendesto died in 2013 while in federal prison. My research did not reveal whether the lawyer pursued internment of Sam’s remains at Arlington National Cemetery, but the mobster was buried at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois. The heroic acts of a young sailor apparently overshadowed the sordid criminal career of Sam the mobster in the eyes of the Federal Government. 


Ronnie Beck
Ronnie Beck was a friend, killed in the line of duty in Houston, Texas in 1971. He was run over by a drunk after he stopped another car on Houston’s Southwest Freeway. He was a hero for how he lived.

Ronnie was a character! Although he was only twenty-three years old when his life ended, everyone at the Houston Police Department had a story to tell. I related a few of those tales in a fictional short story published in my book, The Park Place Rangers. A more in-depth look at Ronnie’s life can be found in Fallen Heroes of the Bayou City by Nelson J. Zoch.

He was a hard-charging cop, who worked the night shift and never waited for crime to come to him. He sought it out. But that was just part of his life. He worked an extra-job at a low-income housing project. When he realized many of the young boys with long shaggy hair couldn’t afford haircuts, he bought a pair of clippers and became a part-time barber, albeit one dressed in a police uniform. He volunteered in the Big Brothers Program, becoming a mentor for some of these same kids. Ronnie donated much of his earnings from this extra work to programs designed to keep kids off the streets through athletic and other programs.

Maybe the best compliment was written by Nelson Zoch in his book. He wrote, “In his own way, he (Ronnie) was geared toward the community-oriented approach, which many police administrators have unsuccessfully tried to imitate in later decades.”

Ronnie Beck was from Fordyce, Arkansas. He moved to Houston to become a cop.  A tall and affable country boy with a big smile, Ronnie soon earned the nickname Jethro. The name was bestowed upon him because of his enormous appetite and uncanny resemblance to the lovable character by that name on the television show, The Beverly Hillbillies. He’d been married less than three weeks when he was killed. His widow became a Houston officer for a time after his death.

There’s an old saying that a police career can be described as years of pure boredom accentuated by a few moments, interspersed throughout that career, of sheer terror. But Ronnie Beck's career wasn't boring, nor was his life to be defined by those moments of terror that took it. 

Had he lived to complete his career, he would have been a legend within the Houston Police community and probably in the lives of underprivileged young people whose lives he impacted. To those who knew him, he is a legend. 

We overuse the term hero. Ronnie was a hero, not because he was a policeman, nor because he was killed in the line of duty. He was a hero because of who he was as a man. He would have been a hero, no matter what vocation he had chosen.


French said he wasn't afraid and took a seat
James Donald French was cool as a cucumber, self-assured, and a real showman, which may be the only positive attributes of his miserable life. He was convicted in 1958 by Oklahoma jurors for the murder of Frank Boone. Boone had given French a ride when he was hitchhiking in the Texas Panhandle. After driving into Oklahoma, French murdered the Good Samaritan and took his car. Arrested while he was driving the dead man's car, French was convicted and sentenced to life in prison

Smarter than the average killer.
By 1961, he murdered his cellmate, Eddie Shelton, and was again facing murder charges, this time from a prison cell. Either he or prison workers promoted the idea that he committed the murder because he lacked the courage to commit suicide, but did not want to remain in prison for the rest of his life. That idea was further promoted when he did his best to make a quick trip to Oklahoma's hot seat, the electric chair. But others who worked at the prison didn't buy the story, nor did they ascribe to a defense theory that he was insane.

James French
Questions regarding French’s sanity were raised as early as when he was arrested at sixteen, but while in federal prison (on unrelated charges) before the first murder, he finished high school and completed two years of college. He was reported to have written a book, WE, about the compulsion to commit crime. No record of the book was found by this writer. Psychiatric testimony, raised during one of his trials, revealed that his IQ was 117. The average intelligence score on most tests is 100.

After the murder of his cellmate, he admitted to the offense, saying he executed Shelton, just like the State executes people. French said his victim was like a rotten tomato that would destroy the whole basket. He determined there was no alternative but to kill the man. He also said Shelton had called him 'nuts.' In keeping with the tradition of providing the condemned a last meal, French allowed Shelton to have breakfast before strangling him to death.

He told the Court he wanted no appeal of his conviction and was not afraid of the electric chair. But the system wasn't inclined to grant his wish right away. His conviction was overturned and he was tried twice more before the Grim Reaper came to call. After the third conviction, he begged his family not to intercede and to let him die.

French remained calm and confident to the end. Talking to members of the press shortly before he was to be strapped in the chair, he said, “Hey, fellas. How about this for a headline for tomorrow’s paper? French Fries!

A few minutes later, when the Warden asked him if he had any last words, he said, "Everything’s already been said.” He shook hands with the Warden and a prison guard before taking a seat in the chair that would end his sorry life.

No record was found indicating any newspaper used his recommended headline the next day.


Charles R. Forbes
In 2014 a scandal erupted within the Department of Veterans Affairs. It was learned that veterans had died while awaiting treatment at Veteran Health Administration facilities. But scandal in the administration of veterans’ benefits is not a surprise. The predecessor to the Department, first known as the Veterans Bureau, was steeped in corruption and scandal from its very beginning.

President Warren G. Harding recognized the need for such an agency in 1921. That’s when he created the Bureau and appointed a former Army deserter to lead it. Charles Forbes was in the U.S. Army in 1900 when he was charged with desertion. Captured, but mysteriously never prosecuted for the offense, he went on to become a decorated soldier in World War I. When the war was over, he ended up in Hawaii, where he played a part in the construction of Pearl Harbor.

Characterized as a playboy, gambler, and glib-tongued shyster, it was in Hawaii where he first met the future President Harding. The two became close friends, apparently sharing the interests in women not their wives and gambling. When he created the Veterans Bureau, Harding appointed Forbes its first Director.

Never committed to providing services to those who served in World War I or previous conflicts, Forbes set about stealing an estimated two million dollars from the Bureau in the two years he served as  its Director. Though over 300,000 wounded veterans returned, Forbes allowed less than 50,000 disability claims. His interest was focused on taking bribes from contractors and selling hospital supplies to private businesses at a fraction of their value. One corrupt contractor, E.H. Mortimer, paid a $5,000.00 bribe and made his wife available for an affair with Forbes.

Once rumors of Forbes illegal activities reached the White House, President Harding was forced to take action. In keeping with his style of never making a hard decision, Harding allowed Forbes to resign. That might have been the end of the scandal, except that prior to the resignation, the embattled Veterans Bureau Director left on a trip to Europe in a pre-arranged deal with Harding. Forbes mistake was taking the wife of the contractor Mortimer with him.

The Congress, amidst the rumors of corruption, began an investigation. Mortimer, either insulted at the audacity of Forbes taking his wife to Europe, or maybe just smart enough to be the first crook to turn on the other, agreed to testify before the Congressional Committee. Other testimony revealed that more than 200,000 letters from veterans were left unopened by Forbes and his scandal-ridden Veterans Bureau.

Charles Forbes was indicted and convicted of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Government. He was sentenced to two years in federal prison and served most of the term at Leavenworth. After his release, he continued to seek the limelight, casting allegations of corruption at other Harding appointees, but never at the President himself.

Forbes died at Walter Reed Hospital in 1952 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. One might wonder, how many of those WWI veterans who were denied benefits by Charles Forbes’ Veterans Bureau, received treatment at Walter Reed or were buried at Arlington? 


The first in my Tanner and Thibodaux Mystery and Crime Series is titled Homicide in Black & White. It will be FREE as a Kindle e-book beginning Friday, September 26 through Sunday, September 30. This free book promotion is a celebration of the publication of the second book in the series, Rich Man, Dead Man. The FREE e-book can be downloaded at FREE FOR 5 DAYS "HOMICIDE IN BLACK & WHITE" STARTING FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 26TH


In the latest of the Tanner and Thibodaux Crime and Mystery Series, the retired cop and Delta Force soldier return to investigate the death of Trey Ward, a drug-dealing son of San Antonio billionaire Trenton Ward. Venturing into the high-stakes drug culture, they discover another wealthy Texan is responsible for the murder. 

Wealth has its privileges and it appears the murderer will go unpunished. But Tanner and Thibodaux discover other dark secrets. Follow their exploits as they search for a way to see justice served.

Rich Man, Dead Man is available in paperback at Rich Man, Dead Man paperback edition or as a Kindle book it is available at Rich Man, Dead Man, Kindle edition  


Mickey Cohen's telegram
In the early 1950’s the Texas legislature convened a Special Crime Investigation Committee, which soon became known as the James Committee referring to its vice-chairman, Tom James, of Dallas. Many people know this piece of Texas history, but mistakenly believe it was limited to an investigation of organized crime in Galveston, Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas. While Galveston’s gambling, liquor laws, and prostitution were a part of the investigation, the Committee subpoenaed witnesses regarding crime in El Paso, Lubbock, Amarillo, Dallas, and other locations. In fact, well-known mobster Mickey Cohen, of Chicago and Los Angeles, was even subpoenaed. On the left is his Western Union response to the subpoena.

James was interviewed in 2005 by the Beaumont Enterprise and said the Committee had been investigating for some time, when a mid-day shooting in downtown Beaumont, between two numbers-running racketeers caused the Committee to turn its attention to Beaumont and Jefferson County. On a hot July afternoon in 1958, Banjo Red Marshall shot Jake Giles four times in the back, killing him. The Committee heard rumors that it was a hit ordered by New Orleans mobsters. So began a colonoscopy of Jefferson County law enforcement.

Sergeant Bauer on right
Today’s story focuses on a police chief who was appointed as the Crime Committee’s work was winding down in Beaumont, Texas. Willie Bauer became a Beaumont police officer in 1938. He was promoted to sergeant in 1941, detective in 1943, and captain in 1949. A year later he went to the FBI National Academy for local law enforcement training. Just months after completing the training, Bauer became Beaumont’s Assistant Chief of Police.
A dapper Detective Bauer

In January of 1961 three days of hearings began. The testimony was at time frightening and comical. As related in an article in the Beaumont Enterprise by Brooke Crum in June, 2014, a numbers racketeer by the name of Russell Bond testified the cops didn’t bother his operation because he paid them three thousand dollars a month. Savannah Godeaux ran a bordello featuring black whores for white men only. Her lawyer told the Committee she couldn’t understand their questions because she only spoke French.

The County Sheriff, Charles Meyers, Port Arthur Police Chief Garland Douglas, Beaumont Police Chief Jim Mulligan, and Assistant Chief Willie Bauer were among the many officers subpoenaed to testify. Most admitted that gambling, prostitution, and illegal liquor sales ran rampant in their jurisdictions. The Sheriff admitted to taking over $56,000 in what he characterized as “campaign contributions”. It must have sounded believable to Port Arthur Chief Douglas because he also testified to receiving over $65,000 in “campaign contributions” even though his position was appointed and he wasn’t an elected official. There was testimony that these gallant enforcers of America’s laws found brown envelopes full of cash laying on the seats of their cars. They apparently never questioned how it got there.

Some were fired from their positions, others lost elections, but Willie Bauer was the beneficiary of the uproar about corruption. In 1961 Chief Mulligan was fired and Willie Bauer became Beaumont’s police chief. It was a position he would retain until his retirement in 1984.

So was he a reformer or a bag-man? One person interviewed for this article said that he was told by an old-time Beaumont officer who worked there during the corruption that Bauer was the bag-man for the Chief, but that he was smart enough to see the tide turning. He embraced the public perception of a changing society. One of his first acts was to fire the Chief of Detectives, Jim Stafford, who was directly implicated in collecting the bribes. That firing may well have been a condition for Bauer getting the job.

Others, who grew up in Beaumont and knew Bauer and his family, remember him as just another police officer, family man, well-respected. They don't associate his name to the gambling and prostitution scandal of the 50's and 60's, although he served as Assistant Chief for nearly all of that era.

Ron DeLord, became a Beaumont police officer in 1969. He said that even then, Beaumont had no formal training for new officers. He was instructed to buy a pistol and holster, find a uniform from a stack of used uniforms previously worn by other officers, and to report to work on the evening shift.

I was given a copy of the justifiable homicide statute from the penal code and advised not to use the word "Nigger" on the radio. We had one black patrolman serving warrants on black people and one black detective who worked with a white detective handling what was termed 'misdemeanors murders' (black on black)," said DeLord.

For months after going to work, he never met Bauer, but that changed in 1970. A friend was fired when a citizen complained. The Chief never asked the officer what happened before firing him. DeLord thought it was unfair and expressed his opinion to fellow officers.

Soon after, he was called to the Chief’s office. The Chief sat behind a desk eating sunflower seeds and spitting the shells into a trash can. When DeLord was seated, Chief Bauer said, "Boy, I heard you were unhappy with my decision to fire your buddy. Look around this room and see if you see anyone backing you up. Now shut up and go back to work or I will fire you."

DeLord said, “There were rumors that Willie had profited from the bad old days and was rich. He had a beach house at Bolivar. A city custodian was alleged to have dragged the sack all over town whenever Willie wanted stuff for his beach house. One story went the chief wanted some railroad ties and the custodian went to the railroad and they donated some. Willie found out they were used and sent them back and requested new ones.

His reflections, forty-five years after that stint working for Chief Bauer, “Willie was smarter than those before him and understood that he needed civic support when the hammer fell with the “James” investigation. He became entrenched and outlasted numerous mayors, councils and managers and had the goods on many people.”

It’s hard to believe that the man who served as assistant police chief during all the years of police corruption in Beaumont was squeaky clean. And if he was still with us, I’m not sure he would pretend to have been. But one thing we know. Banjo Red shot Jake in broad daylight over a gambling turf war in downtown Beaumont. If not for that event, the investigation of police corruption, elevation of Bauer to Chief, and speculation about his integrity might never have occurred. 


Before Galveston had a Sheriff J.B. Kline or Joe Max Taylor, there was a man named Frank Biaggne. He had been a Galveston police officer for eleven years before being elected sheriff and taking office on January 1, 1933. He was to serve in that position for the next twenty-four years at which time he was defeated for re-election by Paul Hopkins.  He ran again in 1960, but time had passed him by and he retired from seeking political office.

Biaggne’s twenty-four year stint as sheriff is most remembered for a comment he made while testifying before a legislative committee in Austin and which was published in newspapers throughout the nation. He was asked why he allowed the Balinese Room, an infamous gambling establishment in Galveston, to remain open. He responded, “The Balinese Room is a private club. I’m not a member. When I went there and knocked on the door, they wouldn’t let me in.”

In reality, Sheriff Biaggne was exactly the kind of sheriff Galveston County residents wanted. Many Galveston residents have always maintained somewhat of the pirate mentality of Jean LaFitte, a one-time Galvestonian. There is a rich history of rogues, crooks, and local business owners cooperating to offer the illicit gambling, liquor, and prostitution services that other communities frown upon publicly while often sneaking over the causeway into Galveston in the dark of night to partake of these activities on the sly.

As early in his tenure as April of 1938, after Governor James Allred ordered Texas Rangers into Galveston to close down illegal gambling operations, Sheriff Biaggne made clear his feelings about his job. He cooperated in closing the gambling houses and seizing gaming equipment. But he told the news media that he closed the businesses and seized the equipment reluctantly because he estimated that it could put as many as 500 workers and their families on county relief when they lost their jobs providing these services.

One article published in The Texas Ranger Dispatch claims that Police Commissioner Walter Johnson bragged about being on the payroll of 46 whorehouses and that Sheriff Biaggne went around to the clubs and demanded money if the clubs wanted to stay open. While this may be accurate, it begs the question, if true, why didn’t the Texas Rangers have him prosecuted. The article, in my opinion, tends to glorify the honor and integrity of the Texas Rangers, possibly at the expense of other agencies. In any event, the Sheriff was apparently never charged with crimes and continued to be re-elected to office.

One indication of what the locals thought of the sheriff, gambling, prostitution and illegal liquor can be found in statements made in 1951 by then Galveston Mayor Herbert Cartwright. When subpoenas were served on the Sheriff and other prominent residents of the County by the legislative committee that Biaggne later testified before, the Mayor called their investigation a witch burning. He also said that when he testified it would be embarrassing to “some state officials”. One might surmise that the Mayor knew of some of these state officials who secretly partook of Galveston’s easily obtained vice activity while publicly expressing their false moral outrage.

The sociology of law enforcement work can be intriguing. Police agencies usually provide the kind of law enforcement that leaders of local communities want. When politics change, law enforcement must read the political mood of the community and make adjustments to the way laws are enforced. 

A great example of this is the civil rights era of the 1960’s. For years, agencies throughout the country did the bidding of primarily white business and community leaders by helping to keep black residents “in their place” by using a variety of policing tactics. Yet when the civil rights movement was successful in convincing the establishment leaders that they must change, there was no “memo” sent to law enforcement. Suddenly state and federal prosecutors were charging law enforcement officers with crimes of civil rights violations that only a few years previously were considered to be nothing more than “good police work.” As a result some officers lost their jobs or went to prison because they failed to read the “tea leaves” of public opinion quickly enough.

Sheriff Frank Biagnne was a man of his time for the citizens of Galveston County. With the exception of his final bid to retake the office of Galveston County Sheriff, he read the tea leaves well. The history of Galveston County is rich and those who identify with it often find humorous pride in that ribald era of pirate morality. The Sheriff died on January 12, 1964 and is buried in the Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Galveston.