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Bullets for Dead Hoods:
An Encyclopedia of Chicago Mobsters,
c. 1933

Salvaged by John Corbett

In the early 2000s, writer, curator, and gallerist John Corbett struck thrift gold at a going-out-of-business Chicago junk shop when he stumbled onto a browned and brittle manuscript intimately documenting the Chicago mob of the early 1930s. The tone of its typewritten and hand-annotated pages immediately grabbed him—sensationalistic and funny, they read like an embellished police blotter, naming names, listing addresses, and recounting crimes. Presented here in facsimile in order to capture the dossier’s distinctive materiality, Bullets for Dead Hoods: An Encyclopedia of Chicago Mobsters, c. 1933 offers a detailed rundown on the Chicago Outfit through 140 noir character sketches, which range from the infamous—Al Capone, George “Bugs” Moran, the Everleigh Sisters—to their lesser known aiders and abettors. Whoever dared to put this testament together was clearly someone with access to information—a cop? a reporter? a bitter mafioso?—but who would’ve risked sharing these particulars, and why, is a mystery that will likely never be solved.

In addition to the full-color manuscript, Bullets for Dead Hoods includes related documentary material, an introduction by Corbett, a compilation of more than 400 locations referenced in the manuscript, and a pull-out map of Chicago that pinpoints over 300 street addresses.

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John Corbett is the author of many books, including Pick Up the Pieces: Excursions in Seventies Music (University of Chicago, 2019), Vinyl Freak: Love Letters to a Dying Medium (Duke, 2017), and A Listener’s Guide to Free Improvisation (University of Chicago Press, 2016). He has edited, co-edited, and contributed to dozens of books and catalogs on artists and musicians, including several on Sun Ra and Peter Brötzmann, and his writing has appeared in publications such as DownBeat, The Wire, The Chicago Tribune, and Bomb. As a curator, Corbett has been involved in numerous major museum exhibitions, and he has organized musical events and festivals nationally and internationally; in 2002, he was guest artistic director of JazzFest Berlin. Corbett is the co-owner of Corbett vs. Dempsey, a gallery in Chicago that also issues CDs of new and historical jazz, experimental music and improvised music.

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