CARMI, Ill. – Three area authors will sign their works Friday, December 4, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Carmi Public Library. Tri-State Tornado writer Angela Mason will join Shelton Gang granddaughter Ruthie Shelton and her co-author and regional historian Jon Musgrave in the three-author event at the library.
In addition to those three authors, Musgrave will also have five books by retired 95-year-old educator James T. Carrier of West Frankfort.
Mason, author of “Death Rides the Sky,” which was just released in its second edition, covers the deadly 1925 tornado that ripped through White County with eyewitness accounts along the entire three-state path of devastation. In preparing the book she interviewed more than 50 survivors in 1999 and 2000, men and women who were often just children or just in their teens when the killer storm impacted their families and lives on March 18, 1925.
Musgrave and Shelton wrote “Inside the Shelton Gang: One Daughter’s Discovery,” which came out in 2013. Since then Shelton has written two novels in her planned “The Untold Story” trilogy that’s inspired by the second generation of Sheltons after they moved to Florida. She came out with the second book of the trilogy earlier this year.
In the last month Musgrave’s publishing company IllinoisHistory.com has released the new third edition of his book on the Old Slave House outside Equality, “Slaves, Salt, Sex & Mr. Crenshaw.”
Musgrave’s book on the historic site is based on years of research on what appears to be the last station on the Reverse Underground Railroad still standing in the entire country. Opened as a tourist attraction for 70 years, the site’s ties to the 19th-century kidnapping rings weren’t confirmed until four days after it closed in 1996.
Musgrave will also have Bruce Cline‘s book, “History, Mystery and Hauntings of Southern Illinois,” which his IllinoisHistory.com publishes. The book covers the entire 618 region with the Little Egypt Ghost Society’s research into the region’s supernatural folklore as well as the group’s ghost hunts at various sites and structures.
Musgrave’s and Shelton’s book covers her family’s decades-long crime wave and their eventual exile out of the state. It’s told from Shelton’s point of view as she only learned of her family’s role in organized crime 12 years ago after her father had heart surgery.
“Inside the Shelton Gang” not only tells of her own journey of discovery into learning her family’s secrets, but a more complete history of the gang and the subsequent attacks on her family than has ever been told. Some of it comes from and insider’s standpoint, and other parts from new research into what really happened.
The Shelton Gang rose to prominence in the late 1920s and by 1930 the feds claimed they took in $5 million a year from illegal gambling operations alone in downstate Illinois as well as their inroads into southwestern Indiana. A feud with the Chicago Syndicate led to another of assassination and attempted assassinations in the late 1940s and early 1950s that forced the surviving family members to flee to Florida where Ruthie Shelton was born a few years later.
In the last year Musgrave has appeared twice on the investigation Discovery Channel’s hit shows “Deadly Women” and “Evil Kin,” covering Flora, Illinois’ own 1920s-era love-sick murderess Elsie Malinsky for the first show, and Cave-in-Rock’s frontier serial killers Big and Little Harpe for the second.
His other titles available include two that he co-authored, “Secrets of the Herrin Gangs,” about the Klan War and Gang War of the 1920s and “The Bloody Vendetta of Southern Illinois” about the Klan and family feuds of the 1870s – sort of the prequel to Bloody Williamson that also took part in Franklin County, as well as three books he edited, “The Boy of Battle Ford,” the autobiography of W.S. Blackman, who was born in 1840 on the frontier south of Harrisburg and includes his time during the Civil War; “Lincoln,” another Civil War collection of anecdotes told by the president during his first term; and the “Handbook of Old Gallatin County,” covering the 19th and 20th century history of the first county in southeastern Illinois.
Going along with the 1920s gangster history, Musgrave also has an 18 X 24-inch color poster of the Birger Gang at Shady Rest which includes at least two West Frankfort men who were members of the gang.
Carrier grew up in the mine settlements near West Frankfort. Three of his books grew out of his experiences during the Great Depression: “A Little Bit of Heaven and a Whole Lot of Hell,” “Wilderness Survival” and “Them Good Ole Wild Greens,” the latter two designed as guidebooks. For his other tow books,” Killer Tornado,” and “Christmas Mine Disaster,” he interviewed survivors and family members.
More information about the books as well as ordering, can be found online at IllinoisHistory.com. All three authors will be participating and signing books in the open house at the Wabash County Museum in Mt. Carmel later that evening from 4 to 8 p.m. as part of the downtown Christmas festival.