Arkansas Godfather: The Story of Owney Madden and How He Hijacked Middle America by Graham Nown tells the exciting true story of crime boss Owney Madden an Englishman who immigrated to the US in the early twentieth century and quickly became a Hell’s Kitchen gangster. After rising to prominence in the Gopher Gang, Madden, who was also known as “The Killer”, was involved in a variety of criminal activities during the Prohibition era and ran Harlem’s legendary Cotton Club for a time.
One of the most intriguing parts of Madden’s life was when he settled in the resort town of Hot Springs, Arkansas, a safe haven for many types of criminals due to the corruption in the police force and local government. He moved to Arkansas when police and Italian gangsters started harassing him. Madden ran a supper club and gambling casino in Hot Springs, one of the few places in the US where gambling was legal. But Madden was far from legit. He was involved in illegal gambling and was in business with such mobsters as Meyer Lansky and Frank Costello.
The Southern Club was a popular venue for infamous gagsters who would come to town to relax; Charles Luciano was even arrested there in 1935.
Other fascinating events in Madden’s life are also brought to the surface in Arkansas Godfather such as his bootlegging partnership with Joe Kennedy and his resentment of Bobby Kennedy’s attempts to investigate him in later years.
Arkansas Godfather offers a look at a colorful life as well as a wild sensationalistic time in Hot Springs’ history.