Saturday, October 23, 2010

Secrets of the Herrin Gangs

The Secrets of the Herrin Gangs, my latest book, has arrived from the printers! This 96-page paperback gives a unique inside view of the Shelton Brothers and Charlie Birger from the 1920s, as well as in in-depth account of the gangster known as the brains of the Herrin outfit who worked for both gangs.

Ralph Johnson, co-author, was the alias of a Shelton gangster who decided to cash out when he got out of the gang temporarily at the end of the Gang War in January 1927. He sold his inside account to the St. Louis Star, and then to the N.E.A. news service which distributed his story in a 10-part series that newspapers printed from coast to coast that month. For the first time all ten accounts are collected on one volume.

I first ran across Johnson's stories in the clippings from the St. Louis Star in the Paul Angle Papers at the Chicago Historical Society. Angle, was the Illinois historian who wrote the classic, Bloody Williamson, more than a half century ago.

When I started this round of Bloody Williamson era research a couple of years ago I had two questions dealing with Johnson's account. One, "Was he for real?", and if he was, then, "Who was he?" since he freely admitted Johnson was his alias.

The second half of the book deals with those questions and reveals the real man behind the pseudonym. He had quite an interesting criminal career.

I won't reveal his name here in this post, but I'll give you a hint, if you look on the cover closely you'll see his name. He's also the double mugshot on the cover as well.

Click on the "Buy Now" button if you want purchase the book online and get a signed copy. You can also mail your orders to, PO Box 1142, Marion, Illinois.

Books cost $9.95 each, plus $2.25 shipping and handling for a total of $12.20, plus another 80 cents sales tax if you live in Illinois, for a total of $13.

Check out my Books page for my other books on the Old Slave House, the Bloody Vendetta, Lincoln stories from the Civil War, and the history of Gallatin County, Illinois.


Anonymous said...

Just ordered a copy of your book for my dad whose grandmother was Martha Shelton who was a sister of Carl, Bernie and Earl (and Pete, have you heard of that brother?).

謝可妃 said...

IS VERY GOOD..............................

P. CURRY said...

Very interested in purchasing this book on the Shelton gang. Where can it be purchased?

Jon Musgrave said...

It can be purchased on this website at or locally at the Bookworm and Barnes & Noble in Carbondale, The Bookworm in Marion, the Book Emporium in Harrisburg, Thorton's Market in Herrin, The Buzz and the Franklin County Jail Museum in Benton, the Southern Illinoisan Artisans Shop at Rend Lake and Shawnee Winery in Vienna and a few other places around Southern Illinois.

Any Borders or Barnes & Noble store can order the book, and many of the Illinois stores carry it. And as a last resort, you can buy it from Amazon.

Unknown said...

The second half of the book deals with those questions and reveals the real man behind the pseudonym. He had quite an interesting criminal career.


Unknown said...

I'd like to talk to Jon or anyone with more info on these subjects.
My historic novel Sixteen Tons is now available at Amazon and The book covers four semi-fictional coal mining families living in Christian County, Illinois from 1898 to 1933.
Historic events in the book include: Mother Jones, Cherry Mine Disaster, Ludlow Massacre, Matewan gunfight, Battle of Matewan, Herrin Massacre, Shelton-Birger gangs, Moweaqua Coal Mine Disaster and the Christian County Coal Mine Wars.
The web site for the book is although if you have chrome browser you may have trouble with the audio playing automatically. We are trying to fix this problem.
The book will be especially of interest to anyone with connections to coal mining or to worker unions.

Kevin Corley
5 Woodbury Hill
Springfield, IL. 62711
Cell: 217-685-0259
Web Site:
Publisher: Hard Ball Press said...

My grandparents were from the area and had made claims their whole life that my great grand father was a member of Shelton Gang and was killed by rival gang. Have you ever ran across the name Herman or Henry Parker?