Long-Missing Capone Memoir Is Published

A long-discarded memoir by the wife of a top Capone
henchmen finally gets published...

Al Capone and His American Boys: Memoirs of a Mobster's Wife is the awkwardly composed title of the autobiography of Georgette Winkeler, wife of Gus Winkeler, a leading henchman in the Chicago gangland ruled over by Al Capone in the early 20th century.

Unlike other cities in the U.S., especially New York, Chicago has always been ruled by one Mafia family. Not that that is a guarantee of peace in that city's organized crime rings, as we well know from the violence that took place in the city in the dark days of Capone -- the John Gotti of his day. One near constant: the Brooklyn-transplant mob boss of the Windy City was locked in tommy-gun battles against Irish mobsters for most of his reign, culminating in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, in which Capone tried to wipe out Bugs Moran & Co. as a rival power in one fell swoop -- and finally turned his adoring public against him.

The following is adapted from an article courtesy of The Barnes & Noble Review, written by Adam Kirsch.

"In 1934, months after Gus was murdered by his erstwhile colleagues, Georgette decided to write about their life together, hoping to cash in on the public appetite for gangster lore," the B&N article reports. "Her publisher, however, had second thoughts about bringing out a book so full of revelations about the syndicate." Smart publisher. Sensible. Wanted to live life and die of natural causes, not an overdose of hot lead.

"Thwarted, she decided to turn her manuscript, [then titled] A Voice From the Grave, over to the FBI before going on to make a new life for herself as the wife of a preacher. [What a change that must have been for the former Mrs. Winkeler.] "And there the manuscript lay for decades," forgotten by the Feds in an archive.

Mob historian William J. Helmer brought out this edition. (Credited as the author, Helmer really serves as Winkeler's editor, the article reports.)

However, had the original publisher been a bit more ballsy, he might have had a big hit on his hands, as Georgette's books is full of then-timely revelations, one of the most interesting was that her husband Gus "was one of the shooters in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre -- which she calls 'a wholesale killing so vicious it shocked the entire nation,'" the article reports.

Gus and three other gunmen dressed up as cops and used tommy guns to finish off six helpless members of the rival Moran gang on Feb. 14, 1929. But they missed the man Moran himself due to a case of mistaken identity.

"A few days earlier, Georgette had seen Gus and his pals trying on police uniforms at home; when she went out to buy the newspaper on the afternoon of the 14th and read about the massacre, she knew that Gus had been involved. 'When I got to the house,' she writes, 'I threw the papers in Gus's face and went into my own room. I was too sick with horror to shed tears.'"

Also it seems the great gangster movies of the 1930s were practically documentaries, according to our memoirist. "Just about everything that happens in 'Little Caesar' or 'The Roaring Twenties' also happened to Gus and Georgette -- right down to the unhappy ending," the article notes.

As for how Gus actually bought it, Wikipedia tells us:

"Upon Capone's 1931 imprisonment, Winkler [sp] was surrounded by gangsters who he didn't trust, particularly Frank Nitti, who had always been resentful at how close Gus had been to Capone.

"While entering the beer distribution office of Charles Weber at 1414 Roscoe Street in the Roscoe Village section of North Center, Chicago, on Oct. 9, 1933, Winkler was shot six times and killed by unknown assailants armed with shotguns and died a half-an-hour later after arriving at a local hospital."


  1. I'd like to see Joe Pesci play the role of Sam "Golf Bag" Hunt if they ever produce a film in which the main plot is the elimination of "Hymie" Weiss as he was crossing State Street with 4 of his group heading for Schofield's Flower Shop where Weiss' office was located.


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