A thriller about the exciting rise and fall of the Purple Gang in 1920s Detroit.

By 1957, I’d been locked up in Marquette for 26 years and I figured everyone had pretty much forgotten about The Purple Gang. Which was fine by me, since I didn’t want to answer any more stupid questions. And then one day I’m just sitting there reading Spengler and somebody tells me I have a call from a guy named Presley. I did not know who the hell this was, nor would I have cared even if I did know who it was. What I could tell straight off was that he was a hick and he was full of questions, two things I don’t like.

He started asking me what it was like back in those days in Detroit, and what was it like in prison, and what would I think about having my gang mentioned in a song on the radio. With regards to being mentioned in the song, I said: Do you require my permission to do this? He answered no, and I said: Then why the f- -k are you asking?

That was the end of our chat but a while later I heard the song on a radio here at Marquette. It was a bunch of crap about prisoners dancing and playing music in their cells, something I have never seen and never hope to see. One line refers to “Joe on the slide trombone” which may or may not be a reference to me. In another line, the hick declares The whole rhythm section was The Purple Gang. I do not know what the hell that even means. But I do know it got people asking stupid questions about the Purple Gang again, and next thing you knew, Hollywood was making a movie wherein not a single member of the gang was Jewish.

If you wish to torture yourself, give the hick’s song a listen.

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Arthur Nix • Back stabbings • Good old Detroit • Harry Riley • Henry Ford • Mazel tough • Rachel and the Palmer Raids • Saying bad things? • Speakeasy queen • The babies • Why purple? • WWJBD? • Buy the book
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Awards for The Purples

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Word on the street

I can only imagine what the Detroit papers will eventually have to say about us Purples, but these reviews will have to do for now.


Plot summary

Shunned by our community… locked up for helping an innocent girl… ambushed by rivals and left for dead in the Detroit River: Yeah, there are a few plots to summarize. Read more…

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Why purple?

People will always try to label you. We wore it like a badge of honor.

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Jailhouse Rock

I could tell straight off that Presley was a hick and he was full of questions, two things I don’t like.

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Good old Detroit

Someone has to tell the truth about what happened in Detroit back in the days when it still mattered what happened in Detroit.


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