Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Egan's Rats

Egan's Rats, Daniel Waugh

St. Louis, Missouri. Somehow when I hear those words I see Judy Garland sing "meet me in St. Louie" and I imagine that St. Louis must be a place of clean cut, Hollywood sanitized, decency. After reading Daniel Waugh's book I think "SO NOT"!

Waugh does a great job detailing The Egan's Rats origins. Showing the relationship between Tom Egan and Snake Kinney; two Progressive Era fixers who were unapologetically part thug and part politician. Waugh gives the reader both atmosphere and details in his compelling description of a bourgeoning St. Louis and the various characters in the gang during that era. Before his death, Tom Egan set up what could have proved to be incredibly lucrative booze routes and affiliates in other cities; after he died the Rat's increasingly moved from being a confederation of illegal businessmen to being a gang of thieving trigger-happy goons. While they did make money from bootlegging their preferred occupation was robbing banks and company payrolls. Murder could be described as a past-time for the Egan's under Dint Colbeck. There were so many intra-gang executions that it’s amazing that the gang avoided self destructing. The body count in this book is staggering showing that St. Louis in the 1920's was as dangerous as anyplace in the country including Chicago.