Capone, the Cobbs, and Me

Rex Burwell

Available June 2015


Baseball big-leaguer Mort Hart, trapped between an insane Al Capone and a vengeful Ty Cobb must use his wits to save his skin and the skin of the woman he loves, Charlene, Cobb’s wife.

Mort is also suspected of ‘knowing too much’ by a mob murderer, Jimmy, who tries to kill Mort. And Cobb suspects Mort’s affair with Charlene and has good reason to kill Mort as well.

Both Mort and Charlene -- she an excellent pianist -- are attracted to the fascinating Mezz Mezzrow, jazz bandleader, friend of Louis Armstrong, marijuana seller and ‘voluntary Negro.’ Mezz involves Mort in a secret burial of a murder victim and ultimately makes both Mort and himself police suspects.

At the story’s climax, Mort finds himself pulling the trigger of a pistol aimed at Cobb, even as Cobb pulls the trigger of a pistol aimed at Mort. Capone, maddened by tertiary syphilis, stands nearby, watching in psychopathic fascination. As on the cover of a noir paperback, Charlene also looks on, fingertips suspended at her kissable lips. Will it be her husband to die? Or will it be Mort, her lover?

ISBN: 978-1-60489-148-5 Hard cover $30.00    Sale $13.00

ISBN: 978-1-60489-149-2  Trade paper $17.95    Sale $7.00

204 Pages

  About the Author: 

DESADE II, a novel, was published by Livingston Press.

ANTI-HISTORY, a book of my poetry, was published by Smoke Root Press at the University of Montana. My poems have appeared in several anthologies, including Where We Are Now — An Anthology of Montana Poets, The Best of Cimarron Review, and In Miss Virginia’s Basement.  In addition, Chicago Review, California Quarterly, Shenandoah and many other small and literary magazines have published my poetry.



 Excerpt from the Book:



On June 28, 1927, I ranked third in batting in the American League. On June 29, I was sidelined with an injured knee. On July 2, I was limping around a rural inn as a guest of Al Capone, endangering both my baseball career and my life.

Baseball Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis had a strict prohibition against ball players mixing with gamblers. Even so, when Mr. Capone’s lieutenant had called me on July 1st at my ‘summer’ home in Evanston, Illinois, and proffered an invitation from the Boss himself, I accepted. I was always drawn to fame and to infamy. I felt lucky and was forever curious, a young man who knew he could handle anything.

Most of all, I was interested in a picture that Mr. Capone wanted me to see — so the lieutenant had told me. The picture — whatever it showed — was my main motive for going.

I made it clear I’d stay only a few days. Likely no one from the White Sox would do more than phone while I was gone. Likely no one in baseball would be the wiser. I also had a definite reason to believe that Commissioner Landis trusted me.

Early July 2, the Boss’s lieutenant, foul-mouthed Jimmy, and his driver, Speed, picked me up in a new Cadillac and we made the excursion south, through Chicago, to Burnham, Illinois, and the Arrowhead Inn.

Speed, a little Italian guy, drove the big car and Jimmy and I sat in the rear ‘like gentlemen.’

Jimmy looked older than me. I was 27 at the time. Later I learned he was also 27. Perhaps he’d been used hard by cigarettes and whiskey. With bulging brow and strong jaw, he was as tall as me, but heavier, thicker. He was, after all, a Heavy.

On our ride to the Inn, he admitted to gambling and bribery — rather confiding, I thought, for a mobster.

I asked why Mr. Capone was being so generous to me. I should’ve wondered what Mr. Capone wanted from me.

“Like I told you on the phone,” said Jimmy, “the Boss don’t hold back when he owes a man. You done him a helluva favor winning that ballgame last fall. And you didn’t even know about it till I told you on the phone. He’s god-damn happy about it. The Boss is a big White Sox bug, you know.”

“But this seems very generous.”

“You’re an educated fella; you’re a lawyer. You’re a damn good ballplayer. The Boss likes you. He reads about you in the papers. You can figure things out, he says. He bets you can. He wants to talk to you, have a drink with you. And like I told you on the phone, he has a picture to show you. He says you’ll be interested.”

“Yes, but a picture of what?”

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s a naked girl. See, the Boss read about your bum knee in Joe Short’s column. The Boss thought you’d like a stay in the country air. You could get off your feet. We got a doc can check your knee. Not a bad damn deal, is it, room and board as long as you like just to look at a picture?”

“Sounds good. Very kind of Mr. Capone.”