“Ark City Confidential” – The Back Story

For years, my wife’s uncle had told me stories about Arkansas City, KS (colloquially referred to as Ark City by locals and other Kansans). Three primary aspects were the inspiration for “Ark City Confidential”, my Prohibition-era crime novel being released by The Wild Rose Press on January 11, 2017.

First, there were the stories of underground tunnels. These are not unique to small towns whether they are in the Great Plains (due to protection from the weather or bandit hideouts) or the Deep South (as elements of the Underground Railroad). What is interesting is that many people knew about these tunnels but didn’t know all that much about what EXACTLY they were used for.

Unbeknownst to me, the town had been referred to as “Little Chicago.” There may have been several towns in Kansas Missouri, or Arkansas with similar epithets due to the anonymity that could be had by gangsters hiding out in such small towns. However, I can’t really imagine a “swell” from the big city being completely invisible in an atmosphere of church-going hard-working folks. At the very least, the Feds wouldn’t be able to find them.

Finally, there was an expression that was used more than once — The Grandfather on the Hill. It implied “the power behind the power”, an unknown and unseen individual (or small group) that ran everything, including the legitimate enterprises as well as the government and law enforcement. This notion is more ominous than tales of Capone killing former associates with a baseball bat. He was a character you could identify; something that could never be named created a pervasive sense of fear.

These three primary elements, told to me by my wife’s uncle over a period of years, formed the basis of a story that goes beyond the standard historical fiction formula. This tale has pieces of what really happened, at least as filtered through my imagination.

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