Author of The Poisoned Glass (2019) and Cold Heart (2020)

The American composer Stephen Foster wrote many beloved songs, and perhaps the most famous is Beautiful Dreamer. Foster wrote the song near the end of his life, after his wife left him and his health was failing. Beautiful Dreamer earned a fortune, but it had not yet been published when Foster died in January 1864. His pockets contained just 38¢, and a scrap of paper bearing the words “Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts”.

In Stephen Foster's handwriting
In Stephen Foster’s handwriting

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At the turn of the century, the Hesper Club was flourishing in New York City. This establishment was frequented by shady characters and known for its illegal gambling.

The Hesper Gang
The Hesper Gang

This fantastic photograph appeared in a 1919 edition of the New York Sun. There are so many great things about it, but let’s just begin with “Eat-’em-up” Jack McManus (upper left). Anybody with a nickname like that is okay in my book. Plus, old “Eat-’em-up” Jack earned a second, approving mention in the article when he is described as a brave man “willing to stand toe to toe and fight with anybody”. The article randomly calls out the fact “Eat-’em-up” Jack has never ”lived on the earnings of women”, i.e., he wasn’t a pimp. It’s funny that the Sun thought it necessary to clear this up for their readers… but I guess when you have a dapper fella with a moustache like that, it doesn’t hurt to clarify.

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