Gangsters Up North—a new book by Robert Knapp

Northern Michigan has for decades drawn millions each year to its beautiful lakes and rivers. Gangsters Up North adds a new and exciting dimension to the colorful lore of those lands. What were gangsters doing in Michigan’s vacationlands during the Prohibition years?

Like many ordinary folks of the time, they often traveled Up North for rest and relaxation—and for more nefarious activities. Al Capone, the Purple Gang, Fred “Killer” Burke, other Public Enemies, and many other hoodlums found their way north in fact or in fiction.

They became heavily involved in the gambling and bootlegging that was pervasive in up-scale resorts in Charlevoix, Little Traverse Bay, and Mackinac Island.

They kidnapped and murdered. But most usually, they just hung out with everyone else. Gangsters were front-page stories in those years, their leaders were household names, their faces easily recognizable. Up North, people far and wide claimed to recognize those faces in their various backyards.

They said they saw Big Al Capone in this hotel or at that lake or in that cabin. Rumors of John Dillinger coming to town threw citizens into a frenzy of fear. Black Cadillacs pulling up to a rural place had to hold Mafiosi.

So imaginary sightings interwove with actual criminal activity throughout the tip of the mitt and Upper Peninsula. Gangsters Up North draws on newspaper accounts, numerous interviews, rare images, and much-unpublished material to paint the real picture of mobsters and their associates in Michigan’s northland.

Robert Knapp unweaves the tangle of tales and truth. Gangsters come to life Up North.

Gangsters Up North appeals to the wide audience of vacationers, local historians, and anyone intrigued by gangsters. It will be available at presentations and sold in local stores. 

Author Robert Knapp was born and raised in the central Michigan area. During a thirty-year career at the University of California, Berkeley, he published extensively on topics in ancient history including, most recently, Invisible Romans and Dawn of Christianity.  

In retirement, his interests turned also to the local history of Clare, Michigan, where he is restoring the log home built by his pioneering great-grandfather. 

His previous books include Small-town Citizen Minion of the Mob—Sam Garfield’s Two Lives—The Purple Gang Meyer Lansky and Life in Clare Michigan (2018), Mystery Man—Gangsters, Oil, and Murder in Michigan (2014) and Clare, 1865-1940 (Arcadia Images of America series) (2012).


Sen Shin said...

I stayed at a B&B in Leland and the owner took me back into the woods to show me an abandoned house not far from the beach that belonged to Al Capone. It was flanked by twin guard towers. Interesting bit of history.

Todd Weston said...

Lupton MI and the Purple Gang at the Graceland. 10 minutes from my family cottage.

Edy said...

What a fascinating site! My Dad loved telling us tales of the mobsters that hung out and hid out in many of the cottages near us in Keego Harbor on Cass Lake. I found it enthralling to say the least.

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