Feature Articles

September 25, 2000

The Tales Of Bulldog Drummond

Book Review

By John William Tuohy

John William Tuohy is a writer who lives in Washingon, D.C.

     John Tuohy's book, The Last Gangster; The Life and Times of Roger Touhy and the Chicago Mob, will be released by Barricade Books this fall.

THIRTY YEARS IN THE TRENCHES; Covering Crooks, Characters and Capers. Written by John Drummond. Includes photographs and introduction. 252 pages. Soft cover. $14.95 Available through Amazon.Com or the publishers; Chicago Spectrum Press 1-800-594-5190

    John Drummond's book "Thirty Years in the Trenches...covering Crooks, Cha racters and Capers" is further proof that sometimes the smaller publishing houses turn out the best books. I'm happy to report that the book is in its second printing. John Drummond, aside from being a crack journalist and a good writer who has turned out an informative and entertaining book, John is one hell of a nice guy. He deserves this success.

    In 1997, John was inducted into the Journalism Hall of Fame. A Minnesotan, he's husband and father three grown children, Drummond is a veteran television and newspaperman who has spent almost all of his career in Chicago, and Chicago is what John Drummond knows best. He knows where the bones are buried and how they got there.

    The mobs all here. Drummond gives us the small details on Tony Accardo, the Chicago's syndicates Boss of Bosses for almost four decades, Joey Doves, Big Joe Arnold Butch Petrocelli and a few dozen others.

    For young, aspiring journalist, there's a lot of inside stuff here about how a big city newsroom is supposed t work, how it actually works and how it got that way. And while that is well is good, where Drummond truly shines the most is when he writes about the mugs of Chicago's underbelly. Those off center, colorful, interesting and often tragic characters who can't catch a break and are always a day late and dollar short. Drummond knew them firsthand, up close and personal. As a result, we have an insider's book. But there are plenty of insiders books on the shelves, the difference is, this is a book with a heart. Although Drummond keeps his newsman's distance from his subject, the stories, where appropriate, are written with empathy, a rare trait in an increasingly uncompassionate world. Drummond gives the nameless a name and the faceless a face.

    We learn about Floyd Albright, the "King of the panhandlers" who worked his trade with for years with some dignity on the busy corner of Rush and Illinois on Chicago's North Side. One his regular donors recalled to Drummond that Floyd was "Very discriminating. He didn't hit on everyone"

    Floyd had worked, he said, for the Chicago Tribune for fifteen years before he was fired, although he never said why he was fired. So Albright panhandled the tourists and the businessmen along the street in his little corner of the world, earning just enough money to eat and buy quart of beer.

    Floyd didn't have live the street life, Drummond tells us. He had an extended family that would have taken him in had he asked, but Floyd preferred the streets to the suburbs. That's where he died too. A nineteen-year old former mental patient whom he befriended slit his throat one night in a makeshift cardboard box they called home. The day after he died, one of Floyd's customers paid tribute to the king of the panhandlers by leaving a bouquet of flowers, a quart of beer next to the spot where Floyd was killed. For mob stories, thankfully Drummond's favorites, the reporter often went above and beyond to get his story. While doing a profile on gangster Joe Ferriola, who eventually became a major wheel in the Chicago outfit, Drummond wanted to show Chicago the hoods enormous summer estate in rural Wisconsin. Unable to drive up to the properties extended private road, Drummond rented a helicopter and flew over the estate and the resulting video gave the Chicago public a glimpse of gangland glitz, something that most have incensed the hot-tempered Ferriola.

    Then there's the poignant story of Freddie Dawson who was one of the most lethal lightweights to stroll into the ring. In fact Freddie Dawson was so good the mob, which controlled the fight game in the late 1940s and early 1950s, blackballed him into a stalemate because they knew Dawson could demolish the no talent pugs they had pushed to the top. In 1949, the Outfit bowed to public pressure and Dawson was allowed to go 12 rounds with Ike Williams who was controlled by a hood named Frank "Blinky" Palermo. The deck was stacked against Dawson who lost the bout on a questionable decision. When Dawson retired from the fight game in the early 1950s due to a bad eye, he was broke, cheated by bad managers and dishonest promoters.

    Drummond also covers the mysterious mob murder of oil executive Charles Merriam, the Jimmy LaValley testimony that landed mob bosses' Gussie Alex and Rocky Infelise behind bars, a profile of Marion federal correctional, the so called new Alcatraz and the oddball shooting of mob gambler Ken Eto (Three shots in the skull, point blank. Eto walked into a drug store and called for an ambulance)

    Buy this book and enjoy yourself.

Mr. Tuohy can be reached at

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