Cathie John

Journeybook Press
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Little Mexico
series (read
an excerpt)

Journals of Kate Cavanaugh
series (read
an excerpt)

Authors' Bios


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Gentlemen enjoying an evening of camaraderie and good-natured fun at the Hi-De-Ho Club.

Reprinted from The Courier-Journal

Newport, Ky., Aug. 6, 1946 (AP)

Henchmen of Albert "Red" Masterson, 43, owner of a Newport gambling house, shot last night in gangland fashion, stood guard over their wounded leader today in a Dayton, Kentucky hospital.

An order to arrest "all police characters and armed men in the city" was issued by City Manager J.B. Morlidge, following the shooting at a downtown intersection.

"It's Not Good Publicity"

Sol Youtsey, superintendent of Speers Hospital, where the wounded man drove for treatment, asserted there were no guards at Masterson's bedside. But newsmen and photographers, striving to interview Masterson, were met at the foot of a stairway leading to the men's ward by a man who told them:

"You don't want a photograph, and Masterson can't be interviewed for a few days. There's two more of us upstairs and nobody can go up. You don't want to write anything on this -- it's not good publicity."

An attendant at the hospital said she saw three men whom she identified as guards for Masterson.

Three Identified As Guards

Three men in an automobile drew alongside Masterson's car last night. There was a blast of gunfire. Masterson, wounded, leaped out and hid behind a parked car. The gangsters' car struck three parked machines before coming to a halt. The three occupants fled on foot, firing at two pedestrians who approached.

When police arrived, they searched the neighborhood and discovered Ernest "Buck" Brady, 67, owner of the building which houses the swank Latin Quarter (currently featuring Gypsy Rose Lee), hiding in an outhouse. On the strength of this, and several weapons found in the weeds nearby, Brady was arrested on a breach of peace charge.

"I am innocent," proclaimed Brady.

Later, in Newport Police Court, Brady was released on $1,000 bond and a hearing set for August 28. He explained his presence in the outhouse by saying: "When I hear shooting, I always run."



Newport, Kentucky was the bawdiest spot in America. Its reputation as a "sin city" had its roots in the 1880's, when small time gambling and prostitution houses sprang up to satisfy the desires of the U. S. Army soldiers stationed there. Even after the army finished relocating to nearby Ft. Thomas in the mid-1890's, the soldiers came back to Newport by streetcar to visit their favorite saloons and disorderly houses. Once those saloons were equipped with telephones, bookmaking on horse races became a profitable cottage industry.

Because of its geographical positioning -- cut off from the state capitol and the rest of Kentucky by hills and bad roads, and across the river from Ohio -- Northern Kentucky flourished not only as a hideaway for criminals on the run during the early 1900's, but also as a hotbed of racketeering. Conditions were perfect, when Prohibition arrived, for "Little Mexico", as the region was called, to become the headquarters for a major bootlegging ring. By the time Prohibition ended, Little Mexico had developed into one of the country's major centers for big time gambling operations.

During the 1940's and 50's, dozens of illegal casinos and brothels lined the major thoroughfares of this outlaw hideaway, providing entertainment for the thousands of otherwise honest, law-abiding citizens swarming in from Cincinnati, Louisville, Columbus, and Indianapolis. They even came from as far away as Atlanta and every other city and town in between to gamble and see first rate entertainers such as Jimmy Durante, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, the Andrews Sisters, Liberace, and Milton Berle.

Over the years, it wasn't just your average Joe and Jane Q. Public who came into town for a night at the tables. The casinos also played host to major celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine, and Sal Mineo.

Little Mexico was the Gambling Mecca of America, years before Las Vegas was a twinkle in Bugsy Siegel's eye.

The Cleveland Syndicate controlled almost all the major sources of gambling in the area, as well as the mayor, police chief, city council, and almost anyone else who mattered in Newport's city government. This continued until the 1960's, when The Saturday Evening Post ran a feature expose on Newport, and U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy called it a town "long known nationally for wide-open gambling and prostitution ... where a lack of public interest had allowed the cash register of organized crime to clang loudly."

Against this backdrop is the story of the fiercely independent casino owners who fought to keep from being taken over by the Syndicate. During the course of writing their three previous mystery novels (Journals of Kate Cavanaugh series) which take place in Cincinnati, John and Cathie Celestri (aka Cathie John) felt themselves being drawn to another great source of stories right across the Ohio River in Newport, Kentucky, and began to study its colorful history.

Since landmark buildings in that little river city were being torn down to make way for such family-friendly tourist sites as an aquarium and the world's largest free-swinging bell, they decided to help keep Newport's notorious past alive by way of a fictional series.

Starting with Little Mexico, John and Cathie will follow their cast of fictional and historical characters through the years, up to the early 1960's, when other forces crashed the party and brought it to a screeching halt.


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