Friday, March 14, 2014

the last book I ever read (Stanley Crouch's Kansas City Lightning, excerpt seven)

from Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker by Stanley Crouch:

By the time Charlie Parker and Rebecca Ruffin were up to their necks in adolescent romance, celluloid cowboys were clouding the air with the smoke of blanks—even as tales of desperadoes who were all too ruthlessly human dominated the press, magazines, newsreels, and radio broadcasts. Only the deaf, dumb, and blind would not have known of them. Contemporary variations on the James, Younger, and Dalton gangs of the Old west, Depression-era outlaws such as Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, Baby Face Nelson, and Oklahoma’s Pretty Boy Floyd were pulling daring robberies and escapes almost weekly, filling the air with the rattle of machine guns in battle with the authorities, and now and then going down in bloody exclamation points. Unknown to local lawmen and the Bureau of Investigation, the outlaws sometimes hid out in rural Negro communities, where no one thought to search for them, observed local resident Emma Bea Crouch, who recalled seeing Pretty Boy Floyd and Bonnie and Clyde in East Texas when she was an adolescent there. Others found they could hide out easily in Kansas City—even have a good time of it, as a little money here and a little money there would protect their sleep and keep them free of handcuffs. By 1929, as biographer Michael Wallis observes in Pretty Boy, Kansas City “had become the crown jewel on a gaudy necklace of lawless havens—a corridor of crime—ranging from St. Paul and Detroit in the North to Joplin, Missouri, and Hot Springs, Arkansas, in the South. A police reporter of that time compared these cities to the imaginary bases used by children playing tag. Once a criminal with local connections made it safely inside one of these cities, he was home free. He was ‘on base’ and could not be ‘tagged’ by the authorities.”

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