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Not Now

The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000

Book Reviews

The book's theme of Pink's justifiable violence, and vengeance reaped on his
heirs is clear. However, the reader is asked to accept too much on faith, rather
than documentation as to the validity of much of what is written.
The book's appearance is that of being "commissioned" by the family's desire
to raise "Pink's" stature to that of a noted shootist of the Old West.
Temecula, Calzfornia DICK DIAMOND
Unorganzzed Crime: New Orleans in the z92os. By Louis Vyhnanek. (Lafayette, La.:
Center for Louisiana Studies, 1998. Pp. viii+284. Acknowledgments, illustra-
tions, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 1-88736-624-5. $25.00, cloth.)
The Crescent City has long fascinated Americans. New Orleans' reputation as
a city where social conventions faced continual challenges has shaped the city's
national image. In the 192os, the city exemplified this open defiance of tradi-
tional social and, in some cases, legal norms. Drugs, prostitution, and illegal
alcohol sales and consumption occupied law enforcement authorities' attention
during the Jazz Age. Louis Vyhnanek of Washington State University has pro-
duced an excellent study of crime and the efforts to combat it in New Orleans in
the 1920s. Based on extensive research into police, court, state, and federal
records, Unorganzzed Crime reveals the struggle of a major southern port city not
only to solve its crime problem, but also to professionalize law enforcement and
change its political culture.
Why did crime thrive in New Orleans? Vyhnanek attributes the city's lawless-
ness to a number of factors. "New Orleans' tolerant attitude toward the plea-
sures of life was reflected in the public's attitude toward certain types of crime
usually associated with the rise of what has become known as 'organized
crime'-prohibition, gambling, prostitution, and drugs. Toward each of these
areas except drugs, the people of New Orleans were often more tolerant than
were the citizens of many other parts of the country" (p. 4). In addition, the
city's growth in population and continued economic importance as a port con-
tributed to its crime problems.
The major characters in Vyhnanek's story include not only the criminals
themselves, but also the police, federal authorities, local machine politicians,
and civic figures. Underlying the effort to root out crime in its various forms
was a concern among civic and business leaders to clean up the city's image as a
hotbed of licentiousness. Reformers frequently found support from state offi-
cials hostile to the New Orleans political machine, the Old Regulars, which
dominated local politics through the 192os. Until his death in 1926, the Old
Regulars received direction from Martin Behrman, who served five terms as
mayor. According to Vyhnanek, individual reformers, political rivals, and local
newspapers regularly used crime issues to discredit the Old Regulars in city
A string of police commissioners sought with varying degrees of success to
reduce the city's crime rate during the 192os. Poor training, low pay, and a con-
sequent susceptibility to bribery, and insufficient staffing and budgets all worked
to undermine the police force's effectiveness in fighting organized crime.
Although the local constabulary failed to end crime, it did experience a growing



Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed May 1, 2016.

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