Prohibition ruled America in the 1920s. It produced a lawless decade and lawless citizens. In Chicago, Al Capone became not only the nation's leading bootlegger but a pioneer and kingpin in the union extortion racket, a golden source of easy money and power.
But there was another major crime figure in the Windy City as well, a gangster who emerged from the poverty-drenched Irish slum section known as "the Valley." His name was Roger Touhy, the son of an honest Chicago policeman and the youngest of the six so-called "Terrible Touhy" brothers. Together the six brothers ruled a small but widely-feared criminal empire on the city's outskirts. The gang manufactured and distributed beer, controlled unions and supported their war against the Capones' criminal syndicate through a series of lucrative robberies of the U.S. mail.
This is the story of Roger Touhy's turbulent life.
A career criminal whose underworld deeds were as darkly sensational as Capone's or Luciano's, Touhy evaded both the law and the many attempts on his life by his rivals. However in 1933 he was sentenced to ninety-nine years in prison for a crime he never committed: the kidnapping of international confidence man John "Jake the Barber" Factor.
Factor, the black sheep brother of the cosmetics king, Max Factor, was an illegal immigrant in America, who had fled England to avoid a long jail term for engineering one of the largest stock frauds in the history of the British Empire. In a desperate attempt to save himself from extradition, Factor, working with the Capone organization, had himself kidnapped and, with the connivance of some of Touhy's men, accused Roger Touhy of the crime. After two sensational trials, held in the shadow of the national outrage over the Lindburgh baby kidnapping, Roger was convicted.
After serving eleven years in prison and being denied a hearing for parole, Touhy and a band of convicts shot their way out of Stateville Penitentiary only to be recaptured in a sensational gun battle with the FBI.
Sentenced to an additional ninety-nine years for abetting the escape, Touhy began the long and arduous process of re-opening his case before the federal bench. Finally, seventeen years later, thanks to the efforts of a rumpled private detective and an eccentric lawyer, Roger Touhy won his freedom. A federal judge determined that John Factor had engineered his own kidnapping to avoid extradition.
Freed in 1959, Touhy intended to enter a multi- million-dollar lawsuit against the state of Illinois. After his release from jail he was gunned down on the doorstep of his sister's home. He had been free for twenty-eight days.
John Factor, Touhy's nemesis, was luckier. Over the years he manipulated the legal system through the use of his vast fortune. He managed to remain in the United States but continued to be a pawn for the Chicago mob. In 1955 he ran the incredibly successful Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas, representing the mob and in 1962, just the day before his extradition was ordered, he received a full presidential pardon from John F. Kennedy. He was allowed to remain in the United States, safe from the British courts which had long pursued him.