Forget Las Vegas and Chicago — for most of the 20th century Kansas City was a gangster’s paradise.
The details of politics’ cozy relationship with organized crime in Kansas City stunned Frank Hayde while he was researching his book, The Mafia and the Machine: The Story of the Kansas City Mob.
“I think people in Kansas City are hungry for a story that is exciting and colorful,” said Hayde, a Prairie Village native. “My story is not sensationalistic at all — all my facts come from documented sources. Organized crime in Kansas City was a phenomenon of the 20th century and we should view it in a historical standpoint — it wasn’t all violence and tabloid talk.”
Hayde’s book looks at the link between organized crime and politics in Kansas City during a 100-year span.
He became interested in the topic when he started reading about organized crime in other cities. There was always some mention of Kansas City, which sparked his interest and his research.
He spent the next few years traveling back and forth to Kansas City from his Colorado home, looking up old newspapers, local history books, police reports, government reports and court files.
It wasn’t easy — a lot of police files from the early 20th century had simply vanished because the police department had been corrupted by the Mafia.
Making the research understandable also took time. “I didn’t want a 500-page book with footnotes,” Hayde said, with a laugh. “I really wanted something readable yet hard-hitting.”
Hayde, a U.S. park ranger, doesn’t regret the long evening hours and weekends spent working on his book. Writing had been his favorite hobby since he graduated from the University of Kansas with an English degree in 1993.
Plus, his job has allowed him to maintain his writing skills. “In the park service, you have to write a lot of incident reports, which forces you to write in a concise, descriptive way,” he said. “Most officers hate writing reports, but I don’t it because it’s helped me write a book.”
Although his co-workers were surprised at his latest literary accomplishment, his parents in Prairie Village didn’t blink an eye.
History is a big part of their lives — Hayde’s family has been residing in the Kansas City area since the 1860s.
His father, John, believes he may have helped whet his son’s appetite for organized crime in Kansas City.
Seeing the mob in the news was a big part of John Hayde’s childhood — he remembers when the Union Station Massacre was splashed across the local newspapers. “Those years — the jazz years in Kansas City — were so exciting and my parents talked about it all the time, it was all over the newspapers,” he said. “I was absolutely intrigued to read Frank’s book and think, ‘My golly, it’s all coming alive in my memory, like a movie.’”
Frank Hayde hopes his writing experience won’t end at the Kansas City Mafia — there are several local stories he would love to tell.
For now, however, he just wants to take his literary career one step at a time.
Thanks to Jennifer Bhargava
Friday, August 28, 2015
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