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The secret life of gangsters

Author to make presentation on gangster ‘hot spots’ in Minnesota

June 18, 2011
By Cindy Votruba , Marshall Independent

Chad Lewis has gone from writing about things that go bump in the night to things that bump you off.

"I'm always looking for odd and interesting stories," said Lewis.

Lewis, who is known for his road guides to haunted locations, will do a presentation on his latest book "The Minnesota Road Guide to Gangster Hot Spots" at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 21 at the Marshall-Lyon County Public Library.

Lewis, who lives in Eau Claire, Wis., was doing research for another book about 10 years ago when his car popped a tire in Little Bohemia, Wis., where gangster John Dillinger had a gunfight with authorities.

"It kind of fell into my lap by accident," Lewis said.

He visited the resort and was astonished by what he saw. It was the "real-life" location of the movie "Public Enemies," starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. But at the time he visited, Lewis said the items that involved Dillinger weren't prominently displayed.

"I said (to the owners), this is amazing, you should have this out fronthow many spots gangsters hung out at," Lewis said.

And after the movie came out, the displays had moved out to the front and the place was packed, Lewis said.

That began work on "The Minnesota Road Guide To Gangster Hot Spots." Lewis said the "hot spots" are all over the state, but the main hotbed gangsters loved was the Twin Cities.

Lewis also explores areas all the way northwest and also tells about the robbery of the Redwood Falls Bank in 1937. The Karpis-Barker Gang had stolen $35,000 from the bank. He was amazed that all these great-named gangsters, such as Al Capone or Babyface Nelson came through Minnesota.

Back then, big banks were seen as the "bad guys," Lewis said because the banks were foreclosing on farms and other properties.

"These bank robbers weren't considered criminals," Lewis said.

As Lewis does presentations on his latest book throughout the state, he'll find out even more things about the gangsters.

"People will come with their own story of their family," Lewis said. "I've heard thousands of stories of John Dillinger and Al Capone. These people must be busier than busy."

Each year, there are fewer and fewer eyewitnesses to the occasional appearances by the famous gangsters in Minnesota, Lewis said.

"Pretty soon these people who have set eyes on these people are going to be gone," Lewis said. "Every day we are losing more and more of this history."

Some of the venues where this heists or other criminal activity have changed during the years, Lewis said.

"I try to encourage people not just to read about these places, but visit them," Lewis said.



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