Charlie and the Shawneetown Dame

Here's an excerpt from the book:

The scene at the Johnston City railroad depot was chaos. From all over the county Klansmen had delivered their prisoners to a broad grassy knoll, and by morning more than two hundred men were held captive in the big circle, most of them sitting on the grass, smoking, and talking about the raids that had resulted in their arrest. A few drunks slept peacefully. A rowdy group of a dozen or so taunted the guards who ringed the knoll.

Apart from the main body of prisoners, Charlie Birger leaned against a tree, a long cigar in his fingers. He repeatedly drove the spur on his right boot into the tree’s bark. He was wearing what he had on when thirty Klansmen staged the surprise raid on Halfway: leather puttees, a deerskin jacket, and one of his new silk shirts with his initial on the pocket.

Young spotted Birger the moment he climbed from his automobile, and his face reflected his surprise at seeing the bootlegger in the prisoner circle. Charlie had been a prime target in Young’s cleanup campaign, but the fact was, although it would have been adamantly denied by Young, he was afraid to approach Halfway and face Birger’s cadre of armed defenders. At the beginning of the evening, at Redmen’s Hall, Young had told some of his men to raid Halfway, but only if it could be done without a war erupting.

It turned out to be the right moment because it was the first night that Charlie had decided to abolish the armed guard. His decision was helped along by a rumor he chose to believe, that Young was so fearful of the Birger reputation that he’d issued an order not to touch any of his spots. When the raiders arrived, Charlie was the only member of his gang at Halfway. The rest were off in other directions, although some were due to return within an hour. The thirty Klansmen walked out of Halfway with Charlie on the end of a rope, and not a shot had been fired.

“You got Birger?” Young said to his men.

They laughed as they related how easily they’d captured Williamson’s leading bootlegger.

“Good work, boys,” said Young as he approached a spot in the armed circle from which he could talk to Birger. “You don’t look like such a big damn shot to me,” he yelled.

Birger turned and fixed Young in his gaze. “Where’s your sheet?” he asked.

“Don’t mind about me, Charlie Birger. Looks like you’re in big trouble.”

“No trouble,” said Charlie.

“A lot of trouble,” Young yelled as he pulled his .45s from their holsters and admired them. “Lotsa trouble for a Russian Jew-boy.” Young laughed, as did the men who stood behind him.

Charlie pushed away from the tree and approached Young. The guards raised their weapons and pointed them at him. “You tin-plated little shit,” Charlie said, tossing the cigar on the ground, “if I ever catch you without your friends around, I’m goin’ to kill you dead.

“You threatening’ a law officer?” Young asked.

“Hell no,” said Charlie, laughing. “I’m just tellin’ one little chicken-necked coward what’s goin’ to happen to him, that’s all.” He turned and slowly walked back to the tree.

Young took another look at the automatics in his hands, angrily shoved them into their holsters, and walked away.

When the prisoners had been loaded on board, Young climbed into the engineer’s cab and the train strained away from the station and continued at a snail’s pace until it pulled into the Benton depot. With Young at its head, the column of two hundred prisoners, flanked by over one thousand armed Klansmen, marched to the public square. The streets were lined with thousands of onlookers, many of whom had witnessed the first bizarre roundup a few nights before Christmas.

One by one those netted in the raids were marched into Commissioner Hart’s chambers and charged with violating the Prohibition Act. Some put up bail, others were shuttled off to jail cells. Charlie Birger signed his bond and went home to the house on Poplar Street, where Bea slept.

“What’s the matter?” she asked, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

“Nothin’ I can’t handle,” Charlie replied. “A man made a big mistake tonight, that’s all.”


"...a gripping replay of the violence and greed of that turbulent era." --Publishers Weekly

"...somewhere between the story of Charles Manson and The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight. Bain has come up with a graphically violent and occasionally humorous account of a gangland war from the Roaring Twenties."
--Phoenix Gazette

" turns both funny and horrifying."
--Erie, Pennsylvania, Times-News

"...a bawdy, brawling, bestial tale..."
--Santa Ana, California, Register

"Helen Holbrook's role was only one of many strange tales in this fast-paced, exciting book."
--Manhattan, Kansas, Mercury

"...true to the wild, often violent nature that is southern Illinois." Milwaukee Sentinel

Selected Works

For anyone who aspires to a writer's career, this book is a must-read.
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My Favorite Book
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A Cold War cult classic, once again available to the reading public.