We hope you enjoy this book review by Cy Hilterman.

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I am sure many of us have read or heard about famous characters from the “old west” era. Wyatt Earp, “Doc” Holliday, Bat Masterson, Kate Elder, and Al Capone! Yes, Al Capone. I had never associated a connection between those famous western legends and a gangster such as Al Capone! Black Hats is a terrifically well researched book that weaves a lot of fact with some fiction to create a great read, and will tell of that connection between the prohibition times, old west characters, and Al Capone.

Wyatt Earp was no longer a legitimate lawman in his aging years but he had a badge that his buddies at the LAPD had given him for when he assisted them on a few cases. Wyatt felt this gave him all the authority he needed to go east when Doc Holliday’s common law widow asked him to find her son, Johnny Holliday, in the New York City area. Wyatt’s wife, Sadie, was not very happy that he was traveling by himself to do a favor for Doc’s wife Kate Elder, especially since Kate and Wyatt once had a fling or two. Kate was worried that Johnny was getting in over his head in New York and that the gangsters would give him many problems and Wyatt was the best person to check on him. So Wyatt started on his long train trip east seeing many things he never knew existed other than reading about them.

Since prohibition had started, “speakeasies” had started all over the nation but were exceptionally frequent in big eastern cities such as New York. Speakeasies stayed in business by payoffs to those that threatened them and were run as a private club with admittance only to those known by the doormen of these prohibition era drinking places. Some, like Johnny’s place, were high class but a few were very low on the totem pole.

Yes indeed, Johnny did own a good speakeasy that served as a place where men could drink alcohol, beer, meet their lady friends and join them in their areas of prostitution, and gamble in some of the clubs. Johnny’s place did not have card gambling but eventually it came to fruition when Wyatt and Bat talked Johnny into it. The girls and women roamed freely as they danced, put on shows, and stopped and talked to the men. A few of the girls were well liked and loved by Johnny and some of his workers.

In a card game some time ago, Johnny had won a five to six years supply of whiskey and a few months supply of beer, all of which he had hidden so no one could steal it. When Capone and his buddies decided they wanted that supply, things came to a deadly and brutal type of war. Wyatt and Bat stuck around Johnny almost all the time with their big guns at their side ready and able to assist if trouble broke out. It seems that Capone was not the boss in New York but had to report to Frankie Yale. Capone just pulled the strings for Yale. And Yale wanted that supply of whiskey and beer and would do anything to get it.

The story goes back in time occasionally giving history of Wyatt, Bat, Doc, and all their friends with whom they had fought many battles and generally won. I found these tidbits very interesting. They did not interrupt the flow of the book but rather added to the color. Black Hats is thoroughly enjoyable having its killing, sex, fighting, gun battles, and tells much about what went on in the days of prohibition. The author has written a gem and unless you don’t like suspense and tales of the “old west” you will love reading this book.



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