Personal History of Al Capone’s hitman Jack McGurn and his love interest Louise Rolfe – yes this is the best summary of a new book by Jeff Gusfield, titled Deadly Valentines: The Story of Capone’s Henchman “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn and Louise Rolfe, His Blonde Alibi.
The book is fascinating for anyone who loves or is fascinated by Mafias and Gangsters; As the book itself is by a man, now 63 years old, who as a little kid, liked to play cops and robbers. But seeing photos of Chicago’s bloody St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929, was so smitten by Al Capone and his henchmen, and in particular that of Capone’s main hit man, Jack McGurn, and McGurn’s love interest, Louise Rolfe; that he devoted next six decades of his life researching the AlCapone and the mafiadom; and in particular, Capone’s main hit man, Jack McGurn, and McGurn’s love interest, Louise Rolfe.
What aroused author’s interest in gangsters at an early age and what helped him while penning the book?
Gusfield, a Lake Zurich native now living in Chicago, recollects an incident when he was just five years old.
At that time, Gusfield’s dad was working in the advertising department for the long-gone Chicago American newspaper when he was called in for an emergency one day with five year old Jeff in tow. To engage his son to some interesting activity, so that he could work; Gusfield senior asked his friend, the legendary Capone photographer, Anthony Berardi, to help him out. When Anthony asked Gustfield senior what interests the kid, the father retorted, ‘cops and robbers’.
And Berardi took the kid straight to the (newspaper’s) morgue. Gusfield recollects that for some reason, Anthony was totally comfortable showing him these photos.”
The Gagster bug, which hit the Jeff Gusfield, that bug hasn’t let him off even now.
Notably, Gusfield also visited all the Capone-era sites — buildings, old criminal courts and jail buildings, to watch for self, what the atmosphere felt like. He even, made arrangements at the Rock Island Arsenal to hoist and fire off a Thompson machine gun like McGurn’s. And while writing the book, he knew how deadly the gun was; especially when in Jack McGurn’s hands. The gun also threw important light on the brain of McGurn.
What the book Offers:
1) Thrill of Al Capone Days: Deadly Valentines is a new 346-page hardcover (Chicago Review Press) written in the present tense, giving the reader a fast-paced newsreel feel, bringing back to life these vivid characters from Chicago’s gangster era.
2) Thorough Research: The book is thoroughly researched, excellently written. Includes significant number of black-and-white pictures, Notes and Appendix.
3) Focuses on Personal History: To make the book more immediate, a little bit more intimate, the author has not focused on the criminal pursuit or the courtroom dramas, but what the characters were like personally. Hence the book is an interesting collection of personal anecdotes about the characters from credible sources, shedding more on their personal lives. In short, the author calls his work, a living history rather than pondering history.
4) Delves into, what make ordinary kids gangsters: The book covers the era well, and goes beyond mere historical dates and events. The book delves into the childhoods and influences of McGurn (real name: Vincent Gebardi) and jazz-age blonde bombshell, Louise Rolfe, who served as McGurn’s “alibi” for numerous crimes. Presenting detailed information on the developmental years for both McGurn and Rolfe, the book provides insights into the things that motivated such notorious personalities, when they become adults. For example, the book tells that McGurn’s Sicilian mother told him bedtime stories about Sicilian revenge, the “eye for an eye”, vendetta killings done to preserve family honor. And Rolfe was a spoiled child, a daddy’s girl with a weak-willed mother who Rolfe grew to despise and disregard.
The book is by a man, who not only gave his life to researching gangsters, but also loves the city which is witness to the Al Capone Era. In his own words, adding to the Chicago lore, “I love the history, I love the people, I love the Cubs, the river, St. Patrick’s Day, there’s nothing about Chicago I don’t love,” he said. “And I feel such pride in becoming a Chicago historian, even though it’s rather focused on a small area. I am proud to be a contributor.”
A Bit more about the Book: