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New Jersey Noir - Bizarre Tales of the Garden State 1921-1952



Bizarre Tales of the Garden State from 1921-1952

Joseph G. Bilby


Encompassing a span of thirty-one years, author Joe Bilby's latest book about the Garden State is a chronicle of the bizarre, curious, and sometimes startling criminal events that took place in New Jersey and made national news between 1922 and 1952, a period sometimes referred to as the "Noir" era.

The modern public is obsessed with and entertained by crime stories, but that interest is not just a recent phenomenon. The unusual story sells newspapers, and the weirder the story or the people involved the better. Back in the era when much of America's home entertainment was provided by reading the newspaper, the post-World War I "Jazz Age" decline in societal mores was exacerbated by the lawlessness that accompanied Prohibition, leaving the American public appalled, but also fascinated, by tales of love, betrayal, and murder.

The stories you are about to read include those of William d'Alton Mann, the nineteenth century founder of tabloid journalism, "rum running" and real estate swindling in Nucky Johnson's Atlantic City, the murder of a monkey-collecting circus owner by a howling hit man hired by his brother-in-law, the "Hollywood on the Hudson" death of stuntman "Handsome Jack," the career of Trenton's freelance executioner, the creative counterfeiter from Elizabeth, the case of a Klansman literally hammered to death, the murder of a bigamist inventor in the Highlands by a "dwarflike man," the sad fate of the "Radium Girls" of Orange, the bizarre Westfield "torch murderer," a foiled lynching in Asbury Park, the con man founder of "Storybook Land," the ironic end tale of New Jersey's Sherlock Holmes, the Hoboken stamp collector who put his wife up for sale, ghost pretenders on the Morro Castle, the death of the "Dutchman" in Newark, the veteran who claimed to be the shortest man in the army, and much, much more.

Table of Contents


 1. 1921 - The Mad Mann of Morristown       
 2. 1922 - Who Shot Honest John?            
 3. 1923 - High School Flappers with “the Wanderlust”   
 4. 1925 - The Bloomfield Madman            
 5. 1927 - The “Chicken Fancier” and His Lady Friend    
 6. 1928 - “Lifetime Jake,” the Convict’s Friend                
 7. 1929 - The “Torch Murderer” from Westfield                
 8. 1930 - “Richie the Boot” Gets Lucky                           
 9. 1931 - The “Parade Murderer”                      
10. 1932 - A Classy Con Man                                    
11. 1933 - The Strange Case of Bradway Brown              
12. 1934 - The Strange Case of Millard Edouard                  
13. 1935 - “Old Smokey”                      
14. 1936 - Downfall of a Detective                 
15. 1937 - Joe Fay and the “Big Six”                              
16. 1938 - The Congressman Goes Out the Window      
17. 1939 - Wealthy Wacko Runs Amuck in Plainfield
18. 1940 - The Tax Collector Goes Berserk                     
19. 1941 - The Puppy Love Slaying                 
20. 1943 - Murder in the Pinelands                 
21. 1945 - A Nazi in Newark                     
22. 1946 - A Lower Case Bonnie and Clyde               
23. 1947 - Alice Would Have Been Embarrassed                           
24. 1948 - The Redhead and the Cop                                 
25. 1949 - Mass Murder in Camden                              
26. 1951 - A “Mercy Killing” in Cliffside Park               

Bibliographical Note                          
About the Author                               


"In New Jersey Noir Joe Bilby uses his encyclopedic knowledge of New Jersey history, a keen eye for a good story, and a gift for telling those stories to create a book that will be an enjoyable read for those within New Jersey and beyond." - John Zinn, Chair of the New Jersey Civil War 150th Anniversary Committee

"New Jersey may be happily known as 'The Garden State, ' but it is a garden that also hides some very dark secrets. Historian Joseph G. Bilby has done a wonderful job scouring the records and inviting us to peer with him into the wonderfully odd, macabre, and downright bizarre corners of New Jersey history. Presented with all the requisite literary swagger, New Jersey Noir demonstrates how truth can not only be stranger than fiction, but a lot more entertaining! - Gordon Bond, who runs the website, is the author of Wicked Woodbridge & Crazy Carteret: Vice in New Jersey's Oldest Township

"New Jersey license plates have included its 'Garden State' nickname since 1954, but after reading these action-packed crime tales, readers may start thinking that Bruce Springsteen was closer to the truth when he referred to his home state as 'Jungleland.' From Civil War veteran/tabloid scandal sheet publisher William Mann 'robbing the Robber Barons' to twenty-two-year old Brooklyn Dodger pitcher Billy Loes, involved in a paternity suit in 1956, Joe Bilby's solidly researched, two-fisted crime tales pull back the curtains on the 'good old days' to expose an amazing landscape of damaged World War I veterans, bootleggers, crime bosses, and run-of-the-mill grifters, crooks, and killers playing out their dramas on the Jersey stage. Whether you savor them one at a time or binge read a dozen at a time, these twenty-seven stories will keep you riveted. As the saying goes, 'You can't make this stuff up!'" - Joe Bordonaro, USAF veteran, retired teacher, long time living history presenter and current correspondent for the "Civil War News"

"Lending a historian's sensibility to the seamy underbelly of mid-20th century crime in the Garden State, Joe Bilby delivers the best of both worlds 'only in Jersey' stories that are both tantalizingly juicy and rigorously researched. New Jersey Noir reveals the fascinating stories of madmen, murderous beauty queens, and even a defenestrated congressman, just to name a few. With so many questionable urban legends making the rounds, Noir proves definitively that the truth is indeed stranger and more interesting than fiction. - Sue Kaufmann, New Jersey historian and writer/editor of


Format: 6" x 9" paperback on permanent acid-free paper, printed in the United States; includes 175 black and white period photographs of people, places and events mentioned in the text.
Pages 268
ISBN 10: 1-939995-26-4
ISBN 13: 978-1939995-26-1
LCCN: 2017045039
Price: $21.95 (Bulk order rates are available upon request)

About the Author

JOSEPH G. BILBY was born in Newark, New Jersey, received his BA and MA degrees in history from Seton Hall University and served as a lieutenant in the First Infantry Division in Vietnam in 1966-1967 and in the Army Reserve as assistant economics officer in the 303rd Civil Affairs Company from 1968-1970. He is retired from his position as Supervising Investigator for the New Jersey Department of Labor, has taught military history on the community college level and lectured widely on Civil War and New Jersey history. He is currently part time Assistant Curator of the New Jersey National Guard and Militia Museum in Sea Girt, New Jersey and a free lance writer and historical consultant. He is the author, editor or co-author of fifteen books and over 400 articles on New Jersey history and folklore, military history and Outdoor subjects in both Internet and print venues and also a columnist for The Civil War News and New Jersey Sportsmen News.

Mr. Bilby also contributed a number of entries on historical and outdoor subjects to the Encyclopedia of New Jersey (Rutgers University Press, 2004). A second, expanded, edition of his history of the 15th New Jersey Infantry was published in July 2001. He was appointed a Guest Curator for the New Jersey State Museum’s New Jersey Civil War flags exhibit, which was opened to the public on October 26, 2000, a consultant to the Middlesex County Heritage Commission’s 2004 Civil War exhibit, a member of the Board of Review for the Princeton Historical Society’s 2007 Civil War exhibit, an assistant curator for the Middlesex County Heritage Commission’s 2017 World War I exhibit and has reviewed and edited manuscripts for Rutgers and the State University of New York presses.

Mr. Bilby was the 2011 recipient of the Jane G. Clayton Award, annually presented by the Monmouth County Clerk to honor an individual who, over a substantial number of years, has made exceptional contributions to an awareness, understanding, and/or preservation of the history of Monmouth County, New Jersey. New Jersey Goes to War, which he edited, was named the “Best New Jersey Reference Book” for 2010 by the New Jersey Studies Academic Alliance, and he is also the recipient of a 2011 New Jersey Historical Commission Award of Merit for his work on the state’s military history. He was recently named as an ex-officio member of the board of the Advocates for New Jersey History. In 2013 he was awarded the New Jersey Civilian Meritorious Service Medal by the state’s Division of Military and Veterans Affairs for his work in dealing with the aftereffects of Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the museum at Sea Girt.

Mr. Bilby is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, the Society of the First Infantry Division and the Company of Military Historians. He has three grown children and three grandchildren and lives at the New Jersey shore.

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This product was added to our catalog on Thursday 30 November, 2017.

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