Gorenstein, Nathan. “Tommy Gun Winter: Jewish Gangsters, a Preacher’s Daughter, and the Trial That Shocked 1930s Boston”, ForeEdge, 2015.
Love, Murder, Insanity and the Law
“Tommy Gun Winter” is the true story of four people from Boston who were as notorious as John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd and Bonnie and Clyde and often shared the front page of newspapers with them. One of them was a beautiful minister’s daughter, another was an MIT graduate. They were led by the smart, persuasive and unbalanced Murt Millen. Their story is related to us by a veteran journalist who went after a family secret.
Murt Millen was the son of a successful Jewish immigrant contractor who dreamt of becoming a racecar driver but instead had a criminal career. First he got his brother, Irv, to his side and then he managed to pull in Abe Faber, an aeronautical engineer and ROTC officer. Faber was brilliant but had a fatal flaw in that Millen was the only person he ever loved. Next to come aboard was Norma Brighton who at the age of 18 ran away to be with Millen after having met him at a dancehall two weeks prior.
Murt and Norman got married and then just three weeks later, someone died and then there was another and then came the bank robbery. The gang successfully escaped but only after Murt killed two policemen (Francis Haddock and Forbes McLeod). Very little evidence had been left at the scene and the eyewitnesses were unreliable. The license plate on the getaway car was a fake and the police had nothing to work with. However, there were two determined and zealous newspaper reporters and two clever detectives working the case and they were determined. The investigation took off and a trial that broke records followed. Friends, family, doctors and seventeen psychiatrists testified against this strange triangle that had gone bad.
This is quite a story of interfaith marriage, sex, insanity and bloodshed that made three men and a woman famous and infamous. Author Nathan Gorenstein had access to newly released
state police records, trial transcripts and he did meticulous research to explore the Millen, Faber, and Brighton families. We also meet the cops, psychiatrists, newspapermen and women, and ordinary citizens caught up in the winter of 1934.
This is one of those books that once you start reading, it is difficult to put it down. This is a true gangster story with real characters and with the amount of fine research done, they come to life on the page. Being new to the area, I had never heard anything about this crime or the people involved and as I read my mouth probably hung open as surprise after surprise appeared on the pages.