Sunday, September 13, 2015

What's the ghost of Al Capone doing in Dreamland AR? The story behind the the story!

Al Capone and me

   A friendly passer-by took this picture of a life-like "Al Capone" enjoying his ease with me in front of the Ohio Club in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It was here I came up with the idea for the Dreamland Series.
   One afternoon, headed to a toy store on Central Avenue in historic downtown Hot Springs, Arkansas, I felt a cool blast of air from an open door and paused to look inside. My eyes feasted on a magnificent mahogany bar filling the dim interior. At a small table, a man and an older woman sat eating lunch. It looked “respectable” enough to check out at a later date.
   When I did venture inside some weeks later, the historic atmosphere enveloped and entranced me. Upstairs at a table overlooking the bar, I devoured the long history of the Ohio Club from its menu. Names like Mae West, Al Jolson, Sonny Davis, Jr., Tony Bennett, Babe Ruth, and Teddy Roosevelt jumped out at me. They and gangsters like Al Capone, Frank Costello, Bugsy Siegel, Lucky Luciano, Bugs Moran, and Owney Madden had availed themselves of the club’s hospital in its heyday.
   The second floor where I sat had been a gambling casino, and the bar, constructed around 1870-1880, had been brought from Cincinnati OH, down the Mississippi River, offloaded at Memphis TN, and carried by train to Malvern, AR. From there it finished its journey via a specially-built horse-drawn cart.
   Somewhere between the menu and an order of chips and hot sauce washed down with a diet Coke, I got the feeling of being watched. I looked up to discover a life-size cardboard cut-out of a grinning Al Capone complete with white suit and cigar. He was indeed right there with me!
   A new story began to bubble in my mind--and voila! The Dreamland Series which officially relaunches today with new covers and titles. To connect Al Capone to the mythical Dreamland AR, click through to Amazon and get your FREE copy of Lethal Legacy in Dreamland, the first book in the 3-volume series.


Al Capone’s life reads like a crime novel; indeed, he lived a notorious life of crime as a bootlegger and racketeer among other pursuits. Born Alphonse Gabriel Capone to Italian immigrant parents in Brooklyn, New York, in 1899, he succeeded his long-time mentor Johnny Torio as head of a Chicago crime syndicate. The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929 has been immortalized by Hollywood. He acquired the nickname “Scarface” after the brother of a woman he insulted slashed him in retaliation when Capone refused to apologize. He referred to the resulting damage to the left side of his face as “war wounds”.
     Capone is said to have kept a year-round suite at the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and also frequented the Ohio Club. Both establishments are still in business. Those engaged in not-so-legal schemes found the Arkansas resort area a good place to get away from it all or even hide out if necessary.
     Married once and the father of one child, he was eventually brought down on a charge of income tax evasion in 1931, he served a total of 11 years in federal prisons, including Alcatraz. In 1947 he died in Florida of cardiac arrest following a stroke, but he had suffered from the debilitating effects of neurosyphilis for many years prior to his death. His wife Mae died in 1986.
     Al Capone’s only child, known as “Sonny”, is said to have been born with congenital syphilis. Later, a severe mastoid infection left him partially deaf. He did not follow in his father’s footsteps and later changed his name to Brown—although the name had been previously used as an alias by his father. He died in 2004.

The series inspired by a visit to the Ohio Club

And if you ever visit Hot Springs AR, be sure to stop in at the Ohio Club for great food in a fascinating atmosphere. I personally recommend The Ohio Burger or the Old-Fashioned Burger, but it's ALL GOOD. I enjoy going after 2 PM when the lunch rush is over, but there's live music in the evenings. 

Ohio Club
336 Central Avenue
Hot Springs, AR
(501) 627-0702

Interior of the Ohio Club. Note roulette wheel on the wall.
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