Growing up in Rock Island, we had our share of local celebrities, but not only heroes -- anybody who we could use to fight our image as a "hick town" surrounded by cornfields. So not only writers (Carl Sandburg), artists (Grant Wood), actors (Ken Berry), and musicians (Bix Beiderbecke), but gangsters.
Our resident ganster was John Patrick Looney (1865-1947), a lawyer and politician, who began his life of crime with extortion and embezzlement, then moved on to gambling, prostitution, protection, and violence. In 1912 he started his own newspaper, The Rock Island, to print pro-Looney articles and blackmail prominent residents by threatening to reveal their secrets in print. After a shootout with rival editor W. W. Wilmington in 1915, he left town, and lay low for awhile in Texas.
He lived in this 5,000 square foot 5-bedroom, 5-bathroom mansion adjacent to Longview Park in Rock Island (now a private home).
On October 6, 1922, Looney's adult son Connor was killed in a shootout, and his empire quickly crumbled. Looney was arrested, tried for smuggling, bootlegging, and murder, and sentenced to 14 years in prison. He served 7 1/2 years.
By the way, I thought that Connor Looney was a pretty unique name, but it turns out that there are several in the U.S., including a medical intern on Staten Island and a freshman basketball star at Hawaii Pacific University (left).
Besides, it takes place in the 1930s, when Looney was already in prison, and Rock Island isn't even mentioned.