As gripping as it is prescient, Gangbuster is the first-ever history of the battle waged by one rookie District Attorney, Philip Van Cise, against the KKK, organized crime, and government corruption at the highest levels throughout the 1920s. One century later, in the face of contemporary society’s divisiveness and fearmongering politics, the personal courage of this maverick’s battle against underworld figures and a mainstream white supremacist movement is more relevant and inspiring than ever.
At the height of the roaring 1920s, the ex-frontier town of Denver, Colorado, emerged from the postwar boom as the future of the American city. But the slick façade of progress and opportunity masked a murky stew of organized crime, elaborate swindles, and widespread government corruption. One man risked everything to alter the course of history.
Rookie district attorney Philip Van Cise was already making national headlines for a new brand of law enforcement. Employing military intelligence tools he’d developed during the Great War—wiretapping, undercover operatives, communication intercepts—Van Cise crippled the criminal empire of Lou Blonger, an ex-lawman who had risen from petty scam artist to master of the Big Con. But Van Cise had even darker, more malevolent forces on his radar.
The Ku Klux Klan had emerged as a shockingly mainstream middle-class movement, employing anti-immigration scare tactics, encouraging vigilantism, and instigating culture wars, all while claiming to protect true American values. Van Cise saw the toxic ideology for what it was: a new version of the Big Con sold as populism. Utilizing his pioneering surveillance techniques, Van Cise was determined to expose the Invisible Empire from within.
Gripping and exhaustively researched, this prescient chronicle of Philip Van Cise’s spectacular career as a feared gangbuster taking on organized crime, the KKK, and corruption at the highest levels of government is a cautionary tale that mirrors our tumultuous times.
About the Author
Alan Prendergast is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Outside, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, as well as The Best American Sports Writing and The Best American Crime Reporting. His nonfiction crime book, The Poison Tree, was an Edgar Award finalist and his stories have appeared in The Best American Crime Reporting and The Best American Sports Writing. He lives in Colorado, where he is a senior contributor for Denver’s weekly newspaper, Westword, and part-time professor at Colorado College.
Praise for Alan Prendergast’s GANGBUSTER
“Gangbuster by journalist and author Alan Prendergast (The Poison Tree) is a stirring nonfiction account of the life of Philip Van Cise, a public servant who risked his life and status to break the mob and fight the Ku Klux Klan. Set in 1920s Denver—a city riven with organized crime, corrupt institutions and sophisticated confidence men—Gangbuster is a vivid mural of a place in time. Prendergast tells a story—in straightforward prose that belies his intensive historical research--that is, by turns, terrifying and motivational, one mercifully free of idolatry but penetrating and insightful in what it condemns and commends.” —Shelf Awareness, STARRED Review
“Set against the backdrop of 1920s Denver, this colorful real-life legal thriller spotlights crusading district attorney Philip Sidney Van Cise. …. Rollicking yet scrupulously researched, this is an entertaining tribute to a brazen crimefighter.” —Publishers Weekly
“If anyone is looking for a new American hero, Alan Prendergast’s new book, “Gangbuster: One Man’s Battle Against Crime, Corruption, and the Klan,” has identified one. Prendergast has again taken to pen to demonstrate his gift for true crime narratives to tell the story of Philip Van Cise, the fearless and methodical Denver district attorney of the post-World War I era. Prendergast’s book…is such a smooth and enjoyable read, it almost reads like fiction. (Prendergast) is such a good writer that the reader will find it hard to put the book down.” —The Epoch Times
"Alan Prendergast has captured Van Cise’s bold life and clamorous times with imagination, verve, and razor-sharp reportorial instincts—illuminating a corrupt and dangerous urban netherworld that's fascinating to read about, but one that also resembles, in all too many ways, American city life today." —Hampton Sides, bestselling author of Blood and Thunder and Ghost Soldiers "A compelling, deeply reported narrative history that shows how the principled actions of one elected official can, against the odds, stanch corruption and thwart racist forces . . . Prendergast's superb book and Van Cise's example bear insights that can be applied to today's challenges." —James Neff, author of VENDETTA: Bobby Kennedy Versus Jimmy Hoffa
“One heroic American’s battle against the forces of darkness and hate. As important today as the day it happened. Vividly told. Essential reading.” —Michael Benson author of Gangsters vs Nazis
“Author Alan Prendergast…. has the pluck and tenacity to look deeply into a dark chapter in (Colorado’s) past and tell the too-long-untold story of the heroes who helped end it. He's wound up with an exceedingly good story about an exceedingly bad time. Shockingly, Prendergast informs us, the white-sheeted night riders at one point controlled the mayor's office, the governor's office, congressional seats and a whole host of judges, lawyers and police officers.” —Colorado Springs Gazette
Praise for Alan Prendergast’s THE POISON TREE
“Riveting . . . Prendergast’s book is the true item—thoughtful, moving and exhaustively researched.” —Rocky Mountain News
“The most chilling of all crimes.” —Newsweek
“An objective, affecting account of the case . . . A searing, convincing indictment.” —Publishers Weekly
“[A] thorough account . . . A story of a brutal father who drove his son to murder and of the failure of the community to respond to cries for help.” —Library Journal