Richmond-area readers and true-crime enthusiasts will find much to savor in this rousing, vivid report on a shocking crime...


The Tri-State Gang in Richmond


From the True Crime series

Richmond, Virginia, native and noted historian Richardson (Built by Blacks: African-American Architecture and Neighborhoods in Richmond, 2008) vibrantly captures the essence of the infamous Tri-State Gang and how his hometown briefly morphed into a mob town.

In swift prose and exacting detail, Richardson revisits America’s gangster days in the 1930s, focusing on a particularly elusive group of gun-toting criminals who terrorized the East Coast. Richardson also impressively sets the grim scene in 1931 Richmond, a once-prosperous area now ravaged by the Great Depression and Prohibition, circumstances that sparked criminal activity borne out of financial desperation in the region. A criminal triumvirate—Walter Legenza, a sharp-featured, sociopathic felon; his younger bootlegger sidekick, Robert Mais; and Mais’ sweetheart, Marie McKeever—wreaked bloody havoc across Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia as the core of the notorious Tri-State Gang. They collaborated on a series of lucrative robberies and ushered in a wave of gangsterism from their hideout in a Goochland nightclub. Their first serious offenses were the coldblooded murders of 23-year-old Madelyne Whelton and a Federal Reserve Bank mail truck driver. Witnesses popped up amid the senseless bloodshed, which Richardson narrates with breathless precision, and Legenza and Mais were identified as main perpetrators in the gang’s illicit activities. While both were embroiled in dramatic court proceedings, their club sanctuary exploded and burned to the ground; eventually, both were sentenced to the electric chair. The gangsters attempted one last fight for freedom in a prison shootout and a daring jailbreak. Months later, with expert work by police detectives, both men were eventually recaptured and executed in 1935, Legenza remorselessly “surrounding himself with a fog of aliases, half-truths, and outright lies, even with only hours to live.” Richardson, who seems to have taken great pleasure in poring over the events, offers fascinating details about those personally affected by the Tri-State Gang’s wave of violence. Black-and-white photographs of the nightclub, its subsequent ruin, and various other locales are generously sprinkled throughout the text, adding new shades to the history.

Richmond-area readers and true-crime enthusiasts will find much to savor in this rousing, vivid report on a shocking crime spree.

Pub Date: May 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60-949523-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: The History Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Award Winner

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist



The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

Did you like this book?