Coming May 14, 2024–Of Mobsters and Movie Stars: The Bloody “Golden Age” of Hollywood

This gorgeous cover is the winner of the WildBlue Press cover contest. It evokes the glamour of old Hollywood, yet suggests the dark side of the city and the era.

Of Mobsters and Movie Stars is available for pre-order on Amazon for release on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. You will also be able to purchase the book in hardcover, paperback, eBook, and, coming soon, audiobook, on the Amazon and WildBlue’s websites.

My connection with many of you inspired me to tackle a book project. I can’t thank you enough for your support over the past 12 years. I’m looking forward to many more years here (and a few more books!) I’ll let you know about any book signings and interviews, so stay tuned. I’ve created some content for my author page on WildBlue, so please visit me there and sign-up to receive updates.

There are 37 stories in Of Mobsters and Movie Stars, including an early killer couple who went on a spree while Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were still in grammar school. One of the most shocking tales is about a man who plotted to kill his wife using two Diamondback rattlesnakes named Lighting and Lethal.

Many people have asked if Los Angeles had a mob. The answer is they had two. The earliest was headed by Joe “Iron Man” Ardizzone, an old-school gangster straight out of Central Casting. The other mob, orders of magnitude more powerful and insidious than Ardizzone’s, was the Hollywood studios. Using hired thugs called “fixers,” the studios wielded power over actors and politicians. When choreographer Busby Berkeley killed three people while driving drunk, the studio came to his aid. When director, and husband of Jean Harlow, Paul Bern, died under suspicious circumstances, the studio intervened.

One of the ugliest incidents of studio power was the attempted cover-up of the brutal rape of a young actress at a studio hosted event. The victim refused to be silent and, as far as I’m concerned, is the Godmother of the #metoo movement.

I posted excepts from Mobsters and Movie Stars on WildBlue. Below is one of them.

Excerpted from The Torso Murder

“William Pettibone, Ray Seegar, Floyd Waterstreet, and Glen Druer explored the muddy river bank for hidden treasures on May 18, 1929. The boys noticed something that looked like a turtle shell or strange prehistoric fish 150 feet from the bridge in the city of Bell. One boy took a stick and poked it into an end of the bony structure and held it aloft for the others to gape at. The boys spent a few minutes before realizing their treasure was a human skull.

With the head impaled on a stick, the boy ran up to the roadway. He waved it around until a female motorist stopped. The horrified woman kept it together long enough to drive to a public telephone where she called Bell’s Chief of Police. Chief Smith and Motor Officer Steele met the woman and the group of boys near the river. The woman declined to give her name. Smith’s officers told Captain Bright about the grisly find. Bright accompanied Deputies Allen, Brewster, and Gompert to the scene. While deputies searched the area, an enormous crowd of curious on-lookers gathered.

The initial autopsy yielded nothing which could identify the deceased. At least the skull still had several extant teeth, which made an identification possible. Local newspapers printed the photos and drawings of the teeth and distributed them to dentists.

With limited remains, the experts needed to perform a miracle. Amazingly, they did just that.”

Film Noir Friday: The Miami Story [1954]

miami story poster

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 MIAMI STORY starring Barry Sullivan, Luther Adler, John Baer and Adele Jergens.

Before the main feature I’ve added a special short subject, courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Please don’t try these shooting stunts at home!

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

In post-World War II America, a rise in gangster activity prompts the formation of an investigative committee by the U.S. Senate, forcing many criminals to flee to the safety of the tourist-filled and ineffectually policed Miami. When two Cuban gangsters are gunned down upon arrival at Miami’s airport by gangster boss Tony Brill’s right-hand man, Ted Delacorte, and police chief Martin Belman is unable to secure an indictment, journalist Charles Earnshaw summons several prominent Miami businessmen for assistance. The men are dubious about stopping Brill’s ruthless criminal machine, until attorney Frank Alton suggests a plan.



Death Doesn’t Sleep

sleep_killer1While researching the THUGS WITH SPOONS post I became curious about Det. Sgt. Ned Lovretovich’s career.  I figured that if two bad guys had hated him enough to try to stab with him sharpened spoons in a courtroom, he must have been a pretty good cop.

I still haven’t discovered too much about Ned’s personal life.  He appears to have been born in the Los Angeles area in 1910, but I don’t know when he became a member of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. I’m continuing to dig.

Meanwhile, I’ve managed to find a couple more cases to which Lovretovich was assigned, and that made the news. This next case caught my eye because of the headline: KILLED WIFE IN HIS SLEEP, HUSBAND ADMITS TO POLICE: CARRIED BODY IN CAR FOR 19 HOURS, HE SAYS

sleep_killer3.jpgDrinking sprees don’t end well. It’s a fact. If you’re lucky you awaken with a headache that makes you wish that you were dead; if you’re unlucky, like Gerald Mosher was, you awaken from a stupor and discover that your wife is dead and that you strangled her.

Forty-eight year old Gerald, an oil field worker, and his wife of five months, thirty-eight year old Ina, had been drinking prodigious amounts of alcohol in a bar at 12473 San Fernando Road in Sylmar. When the bar closed the couple made their way to a friend’s apartment conveniently located a lurch and a stumble away at the rear of the bar.sleep_killer4
The recent bride suddenly told her husband  that she wanted to leave (it’s not clear if she meant she wanted out of the marriage, or just out of the friend’s apartment). In any case, Gerald tried to restrain Ina but fell asleep right in the middle of trying to hold on to her. When he regained consciousness some time later he discovered that his wife was dead.

Rather than report Ina’s death, Gerald carried her body out to his car and propped it up next to him on the seat. He then proceeded to drive around with her corpse for nineteen  hours!sleep_killer2

I wonder if Gerald tried to force Ida’s body into an upright position in the car, or if he just allowed her to slump over. Either way, I picture Gerald, maudlin, on the raw edge of sobriety but wishing he was still smashed, apologizing to Ida’s corpse. Something like: “Baby, I’m sorry — I didn’t mean it.”

Whether he had meant to kill Ina or not, and whether he was asleep when he killed her, as he’d later claim, or simply in a drunken blackout, he sat beside Ina’s dead body for nineteen hours worth of aimless crusing around Southern California until he got the brain storm to take her out to the Mojave Desert for burial.

Gerald changed his mind about interring Ina in the desert; he lost his nerve. But he laid some of her lingerie, shoes, and a purse containing identification papers to rest in a lonely stretch of land at Acton between Palmdale and Saugus. 

While he was digging did he get that prickly feeling at the back of his neck that people often get when they know they’re being observed?  He should have. Mrs. Martha Schulze, a seventy-three year old resident of Acton, was scanning the land around her home with her binoculars when she saw someone dig a hole, cover up some objects, and then drive away abandoning a new shovel. Even if Martha hadn’t been suspicious of a stranger digging near her property, she thought it odd that anyone would leave behind a perfectly good shovel. She called the police.


Photo courtesy of LAPL Valley Times Collection. Photograph caption reads: “Det. Sgt. Pat Poe, left, questions Gerald Mosher, 48, oilman accused of strangling his wife in Sylmar motel

Sgt. Ned Lovretovich was assigned to the case — it wasn’t a complex investigation. The items that Martha had observed being buried were soon identified by Mary Jane Shields, Ina’s married daughter, as belonging to her mother. Not long after her personal belongs were ID’d, Ina’s body was discovered — it had been dumped along a private road about one-half mile south of San Fernando Road off Balboa Blvd near the San Fernando Reservoir.

Sheriff’s figured that Mosher had some explaining to do — the hunt for Gerald was on. 

Sgts. Ned Lovretovich and J.G. Lawton had a hunch that Mosher wouldn’t run far, and they were right. As they were cruising an area of Sylmar known to be frequented by Gerald they spotted his car parked at a motel and found him inside.

When asked by Ned and his partner what the hell had happened — why had he strangled Ina, Gerald replied:

“I guess I lost my head.”

Mosher insisted that he’d strangled Ina in his sleep, but asleep or in a drunken stupor the charge against him was manslaughter.

Gerald Mosher was found guilty and then sentenced by Superior Judge Clement D. Nye to from one to ten years in the State Penitentiary.

I found nothing to indicate when Gerald was released from prison — although if he behaved himself he likely didn’t do more than a few years.