Eliot Ness biography examines
role as Cleveland’s safety chief
The world knows of the Untouchables, the squad of supposedly unbribable Prohibition agents led by Eliot Ness in his assignment to break Al Capone’s Chicago empire. Fewer remember the Unknowns, the secret investigators Ness hired to break the pervasive corruption in the Cleveland police force when he was the city’s new safety director.
In his new biography Eliot Ness: The Rise and Fall of an American Hero, Oregon author Douglas Perry gives half again as much space to the time Ness spent in Cleveland than to his days busting the Capone mob. Perry, who refers to Ness by his first name throughout the book, examines how his subject’s personality contributed to his success: He was repressed and obsessive, not a “man’s man,” but with a methodical one-track mind that cost him several marriages.
Ness broke a major gambling racket in the city, and revolutionized Cleveland’s police and fire departments, ordering them to focus on crime and fire prevention instead of waiting around for things to happen. Though it’s true that his failure to close the gruesome 1930s “Torso Murder” case was a blow to his career, it didn’t prove his undoing; a hit-and-run car accident in 1942 was far more damaging, as was Ness’ alcohol problem.
Though it’s well known that Capone was indicted on income tax charges, Perry makes the point that the “Capone squad” made its indictments only a week later, filing thousands of charges against Scarface Al and 68 others in his mob for Prohibition-related crimes.
Perry did extensive research at the Western Reserve Historical Society, which holds Ness’ original manuscript for The Untouchables, the memoir that was mostly written by Oscar Fraley, a United Press sportswriter.
Eliot Ness (335 pages, hardcover) costs $27.95 from Viking. Perry’s previous book was The Girls of Murder City: Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers Who Inspired “Chicago.” Eliot Ness died in 1957 at age 55, just a month before the publication of The Untouchables. His ashes were scattered in a pond at Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland.
When a polar chill has us in its grip, we start thinking about summertime. Gail Ghetia Bellamy, too, is thinking about fun in the sun. Her new book Cleveland Summertime Memories: A Warm Look Back is filled with stories from those who remember times gone by, when they spent happy days at Cedar Point or on the beach at Edgewater Park, nights at Scout camp or weekends at Painesville Speedway.
The chapters include reminiscences on now-closed venues like Chippewa Lake Park, annual events like Fourth of July fireworks and Akron’s All-American Soap Box Derby, sports, outdoor theater and favorite summer treats from places like the soda fountain at Saywell’s Pharmacy in Hudson.
Bellamy includes a finale called “Recapturing Summers Past,” in which she notes how some memories can be relived. Two Rocket Cars from Euclid Beach have been modified as street-legal vehicles, available for rent, and a bakery in Cleveland offers the original Hough’s cake recipe.
Cleveland Summertime Memories (123 pages, softcover) costs $17.95 from Gray & Co. Bellamy will sign her book at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Hudson Library & Historical Society, 96 Library St. She also is the author of Cleveland Food Memories and Cleveland Christmas Memories.
Father and sons
The devastation of Alzheimer’s disease and the complicated relationships between fathers and sons lies at the heart of Men, Like Trees, a debut novel by Akron native Tom Bujorian that will in many ways remind readers of the best-selling The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks.
A devoted, long-married couple with three sons, Jon and Char built their Tennessee home on acreage that included a magnificent oak tree, and at each son’s 10th birthday, Jon planted a flowering crabapple tree nearby. The growth and health of each son’s tree — and the oak’s — is a metaphor for the men’s relationships.
Jon is a successful construction executive whose sons have chosen different paths. Stubborn JJ and dispassionate Bill are involved in the business, with JJ often making choices at odds with Jon’s sensibilities. When Jon is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, he tries to ease the transition, especially for Char, whom he leaves letters reassuring her of his love and urging her to not feel guilty when she can no longer care for him at home.
As Jon lies in bed in a care facility, unable to communicate, a shadowy visitor reviews his life, giving Jon brief flashes of memory.
There will be familiarity in Men, Like Trees for those who have cared for family members with memory disorders. In some ways it is an idealized view, but the message is one of love and hope.
Men, Like Trees (186 pages, softcover) costs $10.95 from the author’s website, http://men liketrees.com. According to the author’s biography, Tom Bujorian works in the construction industry and lives in Fairview, Tenn.
E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall (198 Hill St., University of Akron) — Michele Norris, former host of NPR’s All Things Considered and author of The Grace of Silence, her memoir and examination of race and family, speaks as part of the University of Akron Forum Series, 7:30 p.m. Monday. $10; 330-972-7570.
Stark County District Library (Lake Community branch, 11955 Market Ave. N., Lake Township) — Lake Friends of the Library sponsor “An Evening with Terry Pluto,” sports columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and formerly the Beacon Journal. Pluto will talk about the Cleveland sports scene and sign his books from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Registration requested; call 330-877-9975.
Medina County District Library (Buckeye branch, 6625 Wolff Road, Medina) — John Vacha, author of Meet Me on Lake Erie, Dearie! Cleveland’s Great Lakes Exposition, 1936-1937, presents a documentary on the 1939 New York World’s Fair and discusses the similarities between the two events, 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Wadsworth Public Library (132 Broad St.) — Kathryn Long discusses and signs her Louisiana-set paranormal mystery Dying to Dream, 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday.
Cuyahoga County Public Library (Parma-Snow branch, 2121 Snow Road ) — Andrew Thomas, author (with Paul Thomarios) of The Final Journey of the Saturn V, about the restoration of the Saturn V SA-514 rocket, talks about and signs his book, 2:30 to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Visible Voice (1023 Kenilworth Ave., Cleveland ) — Alan F. Dutka, author of Cleveland Calamities: A History of Storm, Fire and Pestilence, talks about natural and other disasters, 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday.
— Barbara McIntyre
Special to the Beacon Journal
Send information about books of local interest to Lynne Sherwin, Features Department, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309 or email@example.com. Event notices should be sent at least two weeks in advance.