The Society Bootlegger Murder, Part 2

George Remington

George Remington

Earle Remington had made a name for himself locally, and nationally, as an aviator and businessman.  On the surface it appeared that he wasn’t the sort of man to get himself murdered. He was more likely to be injured tripping over a Persian rug at one of the exclusive clubs he frequented. But once police investigators began to scratch the surface they found that Earle was leading a double life — one that may have marked him for murder.

Peggy Remington had spoken with attorney Jerry Geisler about two weeks before Earle’s death. She wanted the attorney to represent her in a divorce. Peggy allegedly told Geisler that not only was Earle having an affair, he was selling bootleg booze. A jealous husband or an angry illicit business partner may well have cause to kill.

The widow had a couple of compelling motives to murder Earle. His infidelity was one. Another, and perhaps even stronger motive, was life insurance.  Earle had a policy in the amount of $27,500 (equivalent to $300k in current dollars).  Ten thousand dollars were to go to his sister, and the remainder would go to Peggy.  Peggy wouldn’t need to kill Earle herself, she could have hired someone to do it for her.

Peggy Remington

Peggy Remington

Where would a well-to-do society matron find an assassin? Her friends and acquaintances weren’t, like some of Earle’s, to be found on the shady side of the law.

Ironically, it was Peggy’s good works that would have put her in touch with a possible gene pool of killers.  She worked with veterans of WWI, some of whom were not only physically but psychologically damaged. Peggy knew dozens of men who knew how to use a weapon, but would any one of them be unstable enough to go through with a murder-for-hire?

The suggestion that the stab wound in Earle’s chest had been made not by a dagger but by a bayonet or a trench knife lent credibility to the theory that a vet, either on his own or enlisted by Peggy, had done the deed.  Peggy wanted out of the marriage – but how far was she willing to go?

Captain George Home

Captain George Home

Two veteran LAPD officers, Captain George Home and Detective Sergeant Herman Cline, headed the murder investigation. Captain Home had nearly 20 years on the job, and he briefly served as Chief of Police in 1919 and 1920. Detective Cline worked many high-profile cases – most notably he had been involved in the investigation into the mysterious slaying of film director William Desmond Taylor in 1922.

Milster’s was not an uncommon theory. From the end of WWI until the beginning of WWII, many criminal acts were rightly, and wrongly, attributed to veterans. If vets behaved badly it may have been because they suffered from shell-shock, the original term for what, decades later, became known as Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder (PTSD). Milster was satisfied that his sister had nothing to do with Earle’s death — but detectives weren’t so sure. They were convinced that Peggy was withholding information. Despite evidence to the contrary, particularly from her own attorney, Peggy continued to deny knowing anything about Earle’s secret life of infidelity and bootleg booze.

Earle kept a little red book containing the names, addresses and telephone numbers of many women. Detectives hoped that the book would lead them to Earle’s killer. All Peggy would say is that for at least two weeks prior to the murder Earle appeared to be in fear of his life. She told police that he never revealed to her the reasons for his unease.

society bootlegger_3_cropLess than a week into the investigation police discovered that Earle was the victim of extortion — a blackmail scheme run by a man and woman.  The woman had allegedly seduced Earle then told him it would cost him big time for her to keep her mouth shut about their affair.

In 1933 crime novelist and chronicler of Los Angeles noir, Raymond Chandler, published his first piece of crime fiction entitled “Blackmailers Don’t Shoot”.  Chandler was on to something.  Why would blackmailers kill the golden goose? They might kill him if he finally refused to pay.

Evidently, Earle had been hemorrhaging money and when the blackmailers tried to tap him again, he told them they were out of luck. Were they made angry enough to kill?

Police identified the couple, but they weren’t sharing that information with the press.  What they said was that they had heard from informants that the night before the murder the blackmailers were at a party in a cabaret on the outskirts of Chinatown. Earle was there with another man and three women.  The blackmailers hadn’t been seen since. Or had they?  Neighbors of Earle’s saw a couple necking in a coupe near the murder scene.  They also witnessed another coupe, driven by a woman, drive up to the Remington home followed moments later by a touring car in which there were two men.  Both automobiles circled the block several times before disappearing. And nobody seemed to know where the amorous couple had gone. Were Earle’s killers doing reconnaissance before they struck?

As if the case wasn’t complicated enough Aimee Torriani, an actress and acquaintance of the Remingtons, came forward. Aimee told detectives that two weeks before his death she had bumped into Earle at a downtown club.  Aimee said that Earle had confided in her that his marriage to Peggy was in serious trouble. Earle had seemed nervous.

Aimee told police that she had special insight into the Remington’s marriage because not only had she known Earle since she was ten years old, she was a psychic.

NEXT TIME:  Will psychic revelations help the cops solve Earle’s murder?  And is the murder of Oakland society bootlegger, Edward Shouse, connected to Earle’s death?

 

 

 

 

Film Noir Friday: The Brasher Doubloon [1947]

brasher_doubloon_ver2

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat. Tonight’s feature is THE BRASHER DOUBLOON starring George Montgomery, Nancy Guild and Conrad Janis.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

Philip Marlowe (George Montgomery) gets involved when limp-wristed and snidley Leslie Murdock (Conrad Janis) steals a rare doubloon from his mother (Florence Bates) to give to a newsreel photographer in exchange for film that is being used for blackmail purposes. Marlowe’s involvement has him encounter a girl who goes into hysterics when touched by a man; a husband-killing woman; three corpses; a couple of scuffles in which he gets his clock cleaned; a secretary who thinks she has killed her boss, which is the reason Raymond Chandler called his story “The High Window”, and a son (who qualifies as a S.O.B. by two definitions) who blackmails his widowed mother. So, what’s not to like.

Film Noir Friday: Poodle Springs [1998]

poodle springs

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat. Tonight’s feature is POODLE SPRINGS starring James Caan and Dina Meyer.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

Television movie based on the novel by Robert Parker, from the final Philip Marlowe story begun by Raymond Chandler. Hard-boiled detective Philip Marlowe is 15 years past his prime, as cynical as ever, but also a newlywed. Moving to the small desert town of Poodle Springs after marrying Laura, the daughter of billionaire P.J. Parker, Marlowe becomes immersed in deadly intrigue surrounding the murder of another investigator. When he uncovers a scheme to move the state border of Nevada, which may involve his father-in-law, the world-weary private eye from the 1940s encounters a ’60s web of greed, lust and murder. With a talent for attracting trouble, Marlowe finds it in the form of murder, bigamy, gambling, pornography and double identity.

Film Noir Friday: Farewell My Lovely [1975]

1975-farewell-my-lovely-003

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open! Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat. Tonight’s feature is FAREWELL MY LOVELY, starring Robert Mitchum and Charlotte Rampling.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

This, the second adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s novel is much closer to the source text than the original, ‘Murder, My Sweet’, which tended to avoid some of the sleazier parts of the plot, but still concerns private eye Philip Marlowe’s attempts to locate Velma, a former dancer at a seedy nightclub, and the girlfriend of Moose Malloy, a petty criminal just out of prison. Marlowe finds that once he has taken the case events conspire to put him in dangerous situations, and he is forced to follow a confusing trail of untruths and double crosses before he is able to locate Velma.

The Kept Girl — An Interview with Kim Cooper

 keptgirlcover

Kim Cooper and I have been friends for several years, and while she may be familiar to many of you for her tireless efforts on behalf of historic preservation in Los Angeles, she is also the brains behind the seminal Los Angeles crime-a-day blog THE 1947 PROJECT, Esotouric Bus Adventures, and endeavors such as the remarkable Los Angeles Visionaries Association which hosts monthly salons covering topics that will open your eyes and your mind.

Now, with today’s launch of THE KEPT GIRL, Kim may also add novelist to her list of accomplishments.

THE KEPT GIRL is set in Los Angeles during 1929 and it explores a demented cult of angel worshipers as they are investigated by oil company executive (and future novelist) Raymond Chandler, and a straight-arrow LAPD cop, Thomas James. Remarkably, Kim’s novel is based on a true and utterly deranged L.A. story which I know that you will enjoy. Her novel is available today on Amazon and I urge you to pick up a copy.

I also want to encourage you to follow Kim on Facebook and via social media at #keptgirlbt

To track the progress of Kim’s blog tour, on which Deranged L.A. Crimes is the first stop, go HERE.

Now, let’s get to the good stuff–earlier today Kim and I sat down to discuss her novel.

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Joan Renner: Congratulations on your first novel, The Kept Girl! I’m curious, there were so many esoteric religious groups and cults in L.A. during the 1920s — what was it about The Great Eleven that captured  your imagination and compelled you to write about it?

Kim Cooper: Thank you, Joan! I can still remember the moment I discovered the Great Eleven, while researching crimes for Esotouric’s Wild Wild West Side tour, which you co-hosted with me.

I was searching the historic “Los Angeles Times” archives for strange keywords, and because these folks were so deeply strange, an article about the discovery of the long-missing teenage priestess Willa Rhoads popped up immediately. There were so many
intriguing elements in that one story– weird rituals, financial fraud, the Santa Susana hills best known as the hideout of the Manson Family, runaway wives, divine resurrection, etc. — that I had to learn everything about the group. Six years later, here they are in a novel!

(Parenthetically, I hope you’re not offended that I kept the Great Eleven to myself for that crime bus tour and didn’t give you a chance to tell the tale. The truth of the matter is that I fell a bit in love with Willa, and didn’t want to share her. I think you understand the feeling.)

Joan Renner: I understand very well becoming attached to some of the people we run across in our research. I’m half in love with a crazy multiple murderer myself! But speaking of research, in your novel Ray refers to “the myth” of his relationship with Cissy. What inspired you to deviate from the romanticized version of their story that has so often been told?

Kim Cooper: Like many fans of the writer, I have long been charmed by the narrative of Ray’s deep affection for Cissy, despite their large age difference and her inability to fit in with his Hollywood colleagues. But when new research casts a fresh perspective on a familiar story, I’m always eager to see where truth and fiction meet.

A few years back Loren Latker, who maintains the Shamus Town website and who was instrumental in the successful legal plea to finally put Cissy Chandler’s forgotten cremains into her husband’s grave, set himself the task of going methodically through the chronological records of the County of Los Angeles for anything related to Raymond Chandler. These records are not digitally searchable, and no Chandler biographer had previously taken the time. Loren didn’t know what he might find, but like a panner for gold, thought it was worth looking.

Sure enough, he soon found a nugget: records from early 1930, documenting the formal separation of Ray and Cissy in their sixth year of marriage!

Since their marriage was breaking down at the exact time that the Great Eleven cult came into the public eye, if I was going to write truthfully about Raymond Chandler at home, troubles with Cissy had to be part of the story.

Joan Renner: In your novel Raymond Chandler’s relationship with his secretary, Muriel Fischer is a love story, but it is also the tale of a woman who discovers and embraces her independence. Would you mind telling the Deranged L.A. Crimes readers on whom Muriel is based?

Kim Cooper: The character of Muriel is inspired by our mutual friend, much missed, Dorothy Fisher. About twenty years after my book is set, the teenaged Dorothy was selected out of the secretarial pool at Paramount to be Chandler’s right hand girl. She had lovely, tender stories about their working relationship that she shared with us. These stories gave me insights into Chandler’s personality–and Dorothy’s character gave me insights into the kind of woman that Chandler was drawn to.

Joan Renner: All of the characters in your novel are finely drawn and fully realized portraits, and I sensed that you felt some affection even for the most reprehensible of them. I wonder, if you could be any character in The Kept Girl for one day who would you be?

Kim Cooper: Thank you, Joan– I’m glad you think so. Even before I thought about writing this novel, I worked hard seeking to understand the motivations of the various characters, to be better able to quickly describe their odd behaviors on the bus in a way that made sense to our passengers.

This is a very good question. Although I feel more of a personal affinity to other characters, if I could spend the day as one of them, I’d pick the policeman Tom James. My reasoning: he is the one person in the book who can move freely among all levels of society, and he visits all the most interesting locations.

As Tom, I could go from a basement speakeasy to the County Morgue, from police headquarters to Chandler’s oil company offices, from an off-limits downtown rooftop to a stranger’s parlor on Bunker Hill, and be welcomed wherever I went. Of course, first thing I’ll have to do when I get to 1929 Los Angeles is call in sick from my beat at 7th & Broadway. I don’t want to waste my one day as a time traveler helping people cross the street!

Joan Renner: Raymond Chandler and Thomas James seem to me to be a perfect one-two punch — the ideal crime solving duo. Do you have any plans to feature them in a future novel?

Kim Cooper: I’m definitely thinking about it, and looking for another old Los Angeles problem that might be suitable for their particular talents.

Joan Renner:  I’m glad to hear that you’re thinking about writing another novel — The Kept Girl is simply wonderful! I want to thank you, Kim, for spending time with Deranged L.A. Crimes. Do you have any parting thoughts on your novel, or anything else for that matter, that you’d like to share?

Kim Cooper: It’s been my pleasure. Thanks for having me, Joan. I can’t think of another site where I’d rather launch the February blog tour for “The Kept Girl” than “Deranged L.A. Crimes.” You and I have had so much fun over the past few years, blogging weird history and telling tales on the Esotouric bus, and bringing these forgotten Angelenos back into the spotlight. I hope your readers have enjoyed learning a bit about “The Kept Girl,” and look forward to returning the favor as blog tour host when YOUR book comes out!

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Psst. Hey you!  If you’re the gambling type and would like to take a chance at winning a copy of Kim Cooper’s novel THE KEPT GIRL, check this out:

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The Lady in the Lake

headlineOn October 29, 1941, a story appeared in the L.A. Times about a man, Monty J. llingworth, who had been arrested for the 1937 murder of his wife, Hallie, in Clallam County, Washington.

Because Illingworth had committed the crime in Washington it wasn’t covered extensively here, but I have to wonder if Raymond Chandler saw the piece in the newspaper and was inspired to write THE LADY IN THE LAKE (published in 1943).chandler

The true story of the Lady began on July 6, 1940 when two fishermen found the well preserved body of a woman floating in the waters of Lake Crescent, near Port Angeles, Washington. The corpse had been wrapped in blankets and tied with heavy rope.

chandler1The body was not decomposed as one might have expected, nor was it bloated as “floaters” generally are. Dr. Kaveney, who examined the body, said:

“I never saw a corpse just like this one before. The flesh is hard, almost waxy. She must be nearly as large as when she went into the water. I’d say she is about 5 feet 6 inches in height and that she weighed about 140 pounds when alive.”

There was a chemical reason for the relatively good condition of the woman’s body, she had saponified, she had literally turned into soap! In fact, she had become very much like Ivory soap, the “soap that floats”.

Even though they were unable to I.D. the woman her cause of death was certain, she had been strangled.it floats

The press dubbed the unknown woman The Lady of the Lake. She was buried as a Jane Doe in a pauper’s grave. She was exhumed a couple of times in an attempt to give her a name, but it wasn’t until criminologist Hollis B. Fultz began to look at missing persons reports from the area that the case came together.

Hollis focused his attention on a missing waitress, Hallie Illingworth. Hallie had been an attractive woman with auburn hair — the corpse also had auburn hair.

Hallie was married to a beer truck driver, Monty Illingworth, at the time of her disappearance. Monty told people that Hallie had run off with a Navy lieutenant commander.

Further investigation revealed that Hallie had never contacted any of her family, which the cops found suspicious. Also suspicious was the fact that Monty had filed for a divorce five months after she’d vanished on the grounds of incompatibility, not desertion.

HallieLathamIllingworth

Hallie Latham Illingworth

A chart was made of the dead woman’s unique upper dental plate and advertised in professional journals. Finally a dentist from South Dakota came forward to positively identify The Lady of the Lake as Hallie Illingworth.

Monty had moved to Long Beach, California shortly after Hallie allegedly ran off with a Navy man. Monty wasn’t alone, accompanying him was Elinore Pearson the daughter of a wealthy timber magnate.

Illingworth was arrested at 1351 St. Louis Street, Long Beach. His mother and Elinor Pearson visited him while he was waiting to find out if he’d be extradited to Washington. In his jail cell, Monty turned to face his mother and said: “Mother, you know I didn’t do it; I didn’t.” To which his mother replied: “Yes, I know you didn’t, son.”

The couple had been living as husband and wife yet Elinor was coy when asked if she was married to Monty, she would neither confirm nor deny it.

MontyIllingworth

Monty Illingworth

The truck driver was extradited to Washington where he was tried for Hallie’s murder.

On March 5, 1942 a Washington jury found Monty Illingworth guilty of second degree murder. They’d agreed on the lesser charge because they felt the crime had been one of passion and not premeditation.

Monty was sentenced to life in Walla Walla Prison, but was paroled after only nine years. He returned to California where he lived until his death in the early 1960s.

A writer of Chandler’s caliber wouldn’t have needed anything more than a small newspaper piece to become inspired. Of course I don’t know if Raymond Chandler actually saw the story about the Lady of the Lake, but I like to think so. Ladyinthelake