George 'Bugs' Moran was the last of the spectacular North Side gang leaders, a colorful and violent urban dynasty that began with the rise of Dean O'Banion in 1920. Although Moran was not killed in the February 1929 bloodbath that had obviously been meant for him, his days as a mighty gangland power were numbered. Cops and journalists who prided themselves on knowing gangsters better than the hoods themselves dismissed Moran, figuring that the loss of his top men in the Clark Street garage and Capone's slow but sure absorption of the North Side would either force Bugs out of town for good or make him a vulnerable target that no red-hot seeking a reputation could resist.

Moran suffered neither predicted fate. The career that commenced in September 1910 with horse thievery and progressed by 1929 to bootlegging, cleaning and dyeing unions and dog racing, was the outward expression of a cunning and determined survivor. Although not as cerebral as John Torrio or Hymie Weiss, Moran was street-smart in the style of the pre-World War One gangsters; those rough and tumble brawlers who relied on their instincts alone and sneered that they'd never seen a bullet yet that was afraid of brains. He had the battle scars to prove his apprenticeship in that do-or-die environment, sporting a 4" knife scar along the right side of his neck and a crooked middle finger from a badly knit broken bone. He outlived O'Banion, Weiss, Drucci, Capone (his preference for monogamy rescued him from Capone's fate to die a syphilitic wreck), and probably those who predicted his imminent demise back in 1929.

He did not, however, escape scot-free, serving the latter part of his life in both Ohio State and Leavenworth prisons on bank robbery charges. He did die from causes unrelated to old age: lung cancer. Cigarettes, not bullets, did him in. Irony knows no bounds.

Despite the fame that George Moran attained as Al Capone's arch enemy and gangland's ultimate survivor, the man himself has been somewhat of a mystery until now. Previous books exploring and explaining the turbulent period that Chicago's underworld experienced during the Twenties report Moran's pre-Prohibition activities only to the extent of quoting his criminal record. His Minnesota childhood, his persistent sinning during the 1910s, his two marriages and fatherhood are skimmed over and his years as an independent outlaw (late Thirties to mid-Forties) appear as mere mentions in an epilogue. My upcoming book is the first in-depth treatment of Bugs Moran's charmed yet wacky life. In the process of telling his story, some of this century's most fascinating and bewildering gangland figures are revisited: Al Capone, Johnny Torrio, Dean O'Banion, Vincent Drucci, Earl 'Hymie Weiss', Chicago's bellowing showboat mayor "Big Bill Thompson", the gang-hating yet oddly pro-Moran Judge John H. Lyle, and Virgil Summers and Albert Fouts, two of Ohio's most colorful and brazen robbers.

Although George Moran both associated with and commanded some fairly ruthless and violent characters, those who knew him well suspected that there was as much gold in his heart as in his Twenties bank account. Judge John Lyle, who relished the vagrancy warrant as a weapon against wealthy gangsters with no "legal" means of support, recalled in his memoir, The Dry and Lawless Years, "As a man Moran had interested me. In the many times he had been before me in court I had discerned contradictions in his makeup. He was guilty of many wicked acts. But also he was sharp-witted, had a keen sense of humor, and at times was highly emotional. I had long thought that of all the gangsters I had observed, Moran was the most likely to repent before he died and ask God's forgiveness."

History has not recorded the details of Moran's last confession, but the public record and interviews with former associates allows us to venture a guess.