Friday, September 15, 2006

“...hookers, stooges, grifters and goons.”

Something for everyone's Christmas list. This is America's Least Wanted: A Century of American Mugshots.

According to the Times, a skell named Mark Michaelson started, almost by chance, collecting these mugshots.

“I wasn’t interested in famous criminals or people who’d committed big crimes or very violent crimes,” Mr. Michaelson said. “I wanted the small-time people, petty crooks who just fell through the cracks. Instead of being most wanted, these were the least wanted.”

As with all good books, this one has some great characters.

Like Elery Augustus Stroup, who in the spring of 1959 came home and “found one Morris Westman in bed with his wife.” Mr. Stroup got a knife and cut them both.

Or the guy up there, busted for being a Communist. He was also a miner. And if you know anything about mining in the 30's and how miners were treated by the mining companies, it's a surprise this guy wasn't arrested for eating the rich.

There are black men busted for vagrancy, including one with this neatly-typed ode to wrongful arrest, “a close mouthed Negro who is probably committing burglaries.” Nice.

Out of them all, it sounds like Michaelson has a favorite and it would be mine, too. It's a shot of a 50-year-old sleepy-faced man arrested for “loitering around beer parlors and not working.”

Michaelson said, "I've been guilty of that."

Yeah. Haven't we all.


Stephen Blackmoore said...

I so have to get this book. Thanks for pointing it out.

David Terrenoire said...


When I read about this I thought of you immediately. It's like the accompanying catalog to your blog.

Elizabeth said...

I thought for a second The Dark Planet had shut down and your URL was pointing to L.A. Noir.

The part about the "sleepy-faced man arrested for 'loitering around beer parlors and not working'" especially got my attention. Just add "hangs out with hit men" and something vague about "strip joints," and we might even have a profile of the secretive author behind L.A. Noir. ;-)