cover image Gangbuster: One Man’s Battle Against Crime, Corruption, and the Klan

Gangbuster: One Man’s Battle Against Crime, Corruption, and the Klan

Alan Prendergast. Citadel, $28 (372p) ISBN 978-0-8065-4212-6

Set against the backdrop of 1920s Denver, this colorful real-life legal thriller spotlights crusading district attorney Philip Sidney Van Cise. According to journalist Prendergast (The Poison Tree), “the web of graft and corruption had been evolving for years and now spanned the city, from the courts to the jails to the mayor’s office.” Into this cauldron stepped Van Cise, who had “a singular talent for sniffing out a con and exposing it.” First, he used electronic surveillance technology, undercover operatives, and counterintelligence measures to take down Lou “The Fixer” Blonger and his “Million Dollar Bunco Ring” of more than 30 con artists. Heralded as a hero, Van Cise got a much different reaction when he turned his attention to the KKK, which was steadily growing in size and influence and claimed to have nearly 50,000 Colorado members in early 1924. The KKK and its “fat little” local leader, homeopathic doctor John Galen Locke, had deep ties to Denver’s political establishment, fraternal organizations, and Protestant churches. Though Van Cise left office before he could bring charges against Locke and others, he watched the organization fall into disgrace by 1926. Rollicking yet scrupulously researched, this is an entertaining tribute to a brazen crimefighter. (Mar.)