Sunday, May 26, 2024

Spies, Lies And Deception: Proof That Ian Fleming’s Imagination Wasn't So Fanciful After All

Simon Heffer at the British newspaper the Telegraph offers a piece on an upcoming exhibit at the Imperial War Museum

A ghetto blaster from the early 1980s is just one fascinating object in an exhibition called Spies, Lies and Deception opening this Friday at the Imperial War Museum in London, running until next April. This particular blaster is unusual: from the Soviet era, it contained Russian surveillance equipment. In James Bond mode, there is also a fountain pen that fired jets of tear gas, a clutch bag designed by the KGB with a camera in it, a box of matches one of which was a stylus for writing secret messages, and a hollowed-out brush whose cavity could contain film. They were the utensils of the Cold War, proving that Ian Fleming’s imagination was not unduly wild.

The displays include deception in warfare, such as netting covered with camouflage used to conceal trenches from enemy aircraft in the Great War, observation posts disguised as trees and a yeti-like camouflage suit. We learn of the artist Solomon J Solomon, whose such camouflage was. The technique was advanced in the Second World War, and among the exhibits are aerial photographs (for me one of the great surprises of the exhibition) showing how another artist, Christopher Ironside, successfully camouflaged factories to disguise them from German bombers; and the Germans used camouflage in Hamburg to convince the RAF it was bombing factories when it was bombing a lake. Experts from the film studios at Shepperton helped design decoy RAF airfields to mislead the Luftwaffe.

 You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Spies, Lies and Deception: proof that Ian Fleming’s imagination wasn't so fanciful after all (

You can also read my Crime Beat column interview with Ben Macintyre, the author of For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming & James Bond via the below link:

Note: The top photo is of a matchbox containing one match adapted for writing secret messages from WWII. And the above photo is of Ian Fleming. 

Friday, May 24, 2024

My Crime Fiction: 'The Cherry Boy'

The below story is chapter 17 of Olongapo, a crime novel I hope to soon publish. 

The story originally appeared in American Crime Magazine. 

The Cherry Boy

By Paul Davis

Wilbur Grady grew up poor on a farm in Arkansas. 

His family was deeply religious, and Grady was advised by his father not to let the sins of the flesh and other temptations make him stray from the flock while he served in the U.S. Navy. 

But Wilbur Grady’s father did not foresee the temptations of Olongapo, nor did he see the greed and treachery of John Bland. 

Grady, a shy, soft-spoken young man with blonde hair, did not curse, did not drink, did not take drugs, did not gamble, and did not consort with fast women.   

On the Kitty Hawk’s initial visits to Subic Bay, Grady did not leave the base and go into Olongapo. He enjoyed Grande Island and other base entertainment, but he stayed clear of Olongapo’s bars and bar girls. 

Grady was not a good sailor. He did not adjust well from his sheltered life on the farm to Navy life on an aircraft carrier. He was in a perpetual state of nervousness and that nervousness made him error prone. He fouled up often and he was often chewed out by the chiefs and petty officers, which of course increased his nervousness. Gray failed in nearly every task he was assigned to. Grady even failed to make coffee properly for the message center. 

Coffee was important to us in the Communications Radio Division, as we worked hard on our eight-on and eight off watches, and we were so wound up that many of us had trouble sleeping during our eight hours off watch. Strong Navy coffee helped keep us alert and able when we went back on watch.  

I had the top rack above two other racks in the berthing compartment, which was good as the top rack was open at the top, so I didn’t feel like I was in a coffin. But just above me were pipes for the steam catapult system that launched our aircraft off the carrier’s flight deck. 

During flight operations, the gush of steam that ran through the pipes and the thump of the aircraft launching above me often prevented me from sleeping or woke me if I were already asleep. So when I had to report for my watch, a good cup of strong Navy coffee was essential.  

We had a three-foot high coffee urn in a cubbyhole room in the message center. The low-ranking seamen had to refill the urn with water and make fresh coffee for the officers, chiefs, petty officers, and other seamen on watch in the message center. Once filled with water, the urn was quite heavy and awkward to carry from the head to the message processing center. 

I recall one watch when Grady was assigned to make the coffee. We had a deep sink in the head and several new seamen, including Grady on this day, spotted it and laid the urn in the deep sink and filled it with water. Grady then lifted the heavy urn up and carried it into the message center and made the coffee. 

It did not take long before one of the chiefs gagged on the fresh coffee and demanded to know what numbskull made the coffee. Grady was severely chastised and informed that the deep sink in the head produced salt water rather than fresh water.  

I had been warned not to use the deep sink for coffee by my older shipmates. I was told that the proper but difficult way to fill the large coffee urn with water was to stand in a shower stall and direct the stream of cold water into the urn. 

Grady’s nervousness was further fueled by his witnessing a prank in the message center’s coffee cubbyhole. Chief Hank Newly was a demanding and unpopular chief who often ordered seamen to refill his coffee mug, which we resented. We usually muttered, “Why don’t you get your own fucking coffee” under our breath. 

None of the other chiefs, or even the officers, ever asked the seamen to get them coffee. In fact, Lieutenant James Horn, a cool officer we all liked, said to Newly, “I get up and get my own coffee, so why can’t you, chief?”

Newly just looked at the officer without comment. 

Seaman Matt Svenson was a weightlifter and jokester from Kansas who truly resented getting the chief coffee. The muscle-bound sailor smiled at me, Grady, Greenberg, and a seaman named Mick Stills as we crowded into the cubbyhole as Svenson was filling Chief Newly's coffee mug. 

“Watch this,” Svenson said to us. He then placed the tip of his penis into the coffee in the chief’s mug. 

His jokester’s grin disappeared as he screamed out in pain. Greenberg took hold of the mug before it crashed to the floor. He laid the chief’s mug on a counter and held on to Svenson’s arm. 

“The coffee’s hot, you fucking idiot,” I said as Svenson collapsed against a bulkhead. Stills laughed and Grady appeared to go into shock. Greenberg took Svenson’s arm and told him that he would take him to sick bay.

“Tell the corpsman in sick bay that you burned your dick getting into a hot shower with a hard-on,” Greenberg told Svenson.

Greenberg and Svenson left for sick bay, leaving me to tell the grumpy chief that Svenson burned himself and was taken to sick bay. I didn’t tell him how or where Svenson had burned himself. The chief grumbled and cursed Svenson. He did not inquire about the cause or extent of Svenson’s injury.

Seaman Alfred Oswald came up behind me and I moved to the side. Oswald was an awkward and odd 25-year-old sailor from Michigan. He had sandy hair, wore thick glasses and had a prominent Adams Apple that rose and fell in his neck like a bobbing apple. We called him “Lee Harvey” after President Kennedy’s odd-ball assassin

Oswald had retrieved the chief’s coffee mug from the counter in the cubbyhole after we left, and he handed the mug to Newly. “Here’s your coffee, chief.”

“You’re a real kiss ass, Lee Harvey,” I said as I walked away.

I saw Stills walking about the message center, telling the young sailors that Svenson placed his penis in the chief’s coffee mug. Every time the chief raised the mug to his lips, the young sailors burst out laughing.

“What’s wrong with you morons?” the chief asked. “Turn fucking to!”

Svenson recovered and he happily told all the enlisted sailors his “dick in the chief’s coffee mug” story. I’m not sure if the story reached Chief Newly or not. If so, he didn’t take disciplinary action against Svenson, or ever mention the incident to anyone. But the chief never again asked Svenson to get him coffee.


Grady was never quite able to get the image of Svenson’s burnt penis in the chief’s coffee mug out of his mind, which increased his anxiety. John Bland saw an opportunity shortly after the dick in the chief’s coffee mug incident and latched onto Grady. Grady was a trusting and naive young man, so when Bland offered to help him overcome his nervousness and become a better sailor, Grady was thankful. Bland manipulated Grady easily and had him running errands for him and doing some of his work while we were at sea.

I thought Bland was a creep. I recall when the Kitty Hawk dropped anchor in Da Nang Harbor just off the huge American base in South Vietnam. The Kitty Hawk pulled into Da Nang Harbor to hold a change of command ceremony aboard the carrier for the Task Force 77 outgoing and incoming admirals. 

I was leaning over the catwalk watching the activity ashore at Da Nang as well as on the ships and boats that sailed by us in the busy harbor. The sailors on the boats were curious to see the giant aircraft carrier in their midst, and many American sailors on 50-foot Swift Boats and other craft looked up and waved, as did many of the Vietnamese fishermen. I waved back. 

Bland came up and stood beside me on the catwalk. As a Vietnamese fishing boat sailed by, Bland hit the deck and put his arms over his head. 

“What the fuck are you doing?” I asked. 

“I think that gook on the boat had a rifle,” Bland replied as he laid shakily on the catwalk’s deck. 

“You think a Viet Cong guerrilla is going to take on an 80,000-ton aircraft carrier with a rifle? Or maybe you think a Viet Cong sapper is out to assassinate you in particular? You’re a smacked ass, Bland.”

Later, while in Olongapo, I saw Grady and Bland in the Starlight and I just knew that Bland had Grady buying all of the drinks for himself, Bland, and the two bar girls at the table. I’m certain that Bland told Grady one of his sob stories about a family crisis at home that caused Bland to send his entire pay back home to his family, leaving him broke. I’m equally sure that Grady believed Bland’s fairy tale.

The two bar girls appeared to be overjoyed with the ‘Cherry Boy,” as he was buying. Svenson saw the group as he was walking by the table, and he sat down in an empty chair.

“Hey, Cherry Boy Grady. I see you finally come to town,” Svenson said. “And I see you got yourself a Cherry girl too. You know, she’s only had two lovers before you – the 6th and 7th Fleet.”

Grady just smiled nervously as the others laughed.

“I hear that some sailor caught VD from your girl,” Svenson said to Grady. “Well, here today, gonorrhea.”

Grady didn’t know how to react to Svenson’s taunting and old jokes, so he continued to smile nervously as the other sailors laughed. The bar girl next to Grady took offense and she flicked a lit cigarette at Svenson and said, “Fuck you, sail-lor.

Svenson chuckled at the irate bar girl, and he got up from the table and went to the bar. He returned to the table and offered Grady a hard-boiled egg. I suspected that the egg was a balut, a fertilized developing duck egg that Filipinos considered a delicacy but nauseated most Americans. I tried to stop Grady from cracking open the shell, but I was too late. Seeing and smelling the duck embryo made Grady physically sick and he threw up on the floor.

Svenson, Bland and the bar girls laughed. Grady didn’t laugh, nor did the Filipino who came out with a mop and bucket to clean up the mess.

“You might say that Grady’s had a premature ejaculation,” Svenson said.

“You’re an asshole, Svenson,” I said.

At some point in the evening, Bland and Grady slipped out of the Starlight and left the two bar girls behind. I suspect that Bland didn’t want to pay the mama-san for taking the girls out of the bar early, as he was notoriously cheap, even when it was Grady’s money they were spending. Bland later solicited a street prostitute for Grady’s first tryst.

The following day back on the carrier, Bland told the other sailors that Grady had his first piece of “poontang,” and how much the young virgin farmer loved it. What Bland did not say was that he took some of Grady’s money and bought heroin, which he had convinced Grady to take to overcome his nervousness by being with a woman for the first time.

According to Lorino, Olongapo had nearly pure “smack,” and the strong heroin caused a user to become addicted to it very quickly. 

After another long line period on Yankee Station, we pulled back into Olongapo.

I saw Bland and Grady hurrying to get off the ship and into Olongapo. Some of the sailors laughed after Svenson said, “Grady got him a taste of that good Olongapo pussy, and now he can’t wait to get more.”

What I didn’t know at the time was that for the entire line period Grady had been injecting heroin. Bland convinced Grady that “shooting up” heroin would help him with his chronic nervousness.

Bland and Grady were anxious to get into Olongapo so they could score more heroin to satisfy Grady’s growing addiction. Bland did not do heroin, but he graciously offered to buy the drug for Grady. Knowing Bland, he inflated the price for the heroin and overcharged Grady, keeping the additional money for himself.

The heroin Grady took did help to calm him down, but it didn’t help with his poor job performance. In fact, being on heroin made him an even worst sailor.

I saw Grady in the head stumbling around and I asked him, “Are you on drugs?”

Grady admitted to me that he was shooting up heroin and he explained Bland’s encouragement, believing that Bland was helping him. I warned Grady that Bland was a cheap con artist, and he was using him, but I don’t think Grady believed me.

I was pissed at Bland, and I told Hunt about it. Hunt and I were in the head talking about Bland when he walked in. Hunt punched him square in the face and Bland fell against a bulkhead, his nose bloody.

“You’re a piece of shit, Bland.” Hunt said and he and I walked out of the head.    


Later, while on watch in the message center, Grady nodded from the heroin and fell out of a chair. He could not be revived, so he was carried to sick bay. The doctor diagnosed that Grady was a heroin addict. The doctor also discovered that Grady had Gonorrhea. Grady was put on report. Grady was to be issued a general discharge and plans were made to fly him off the carrier and to Subic Bay for his processing out of the Navy once he was cured of his venereal disease.

Grady, like me, was 18.

Over the course of only three months, Grady went from a teetotaler to a full-blown heroin addict. And he went from an innocent virgin to getting the clap from having sex with a Olongapo street prostitute.

Grady came to me to say goodbye prior to his flight off the carrier.

“I don’t know what to do,” Grady said to me. “My family disowned me. I got me no money and I know I’m gonna need some more smack when I get to San Diego.”

“You need a smack in the mouth,” I said. Grady smiled sheepishly.

“When you get to San Diego, check in with the Veterans Administration and get placed in a rehab center. Get clean and sober and start your life over.”

“Good advice, Davis. Thank you.”

“And don’t ever, ever come back to Olongapo.”

© 2024 Paul Davis  

Note: You can read my other posted Olongapo chapters via the below links:

Paul Davis On Crime: Chapter One: Butterfly

Paul Davis On Crime: My Crime Fiction: 'Salvatore Lorino'

Paul Davis On Crime: My Crime Fiction: The Old Huk

Paul Davis On Crime: My Crime Fiction: Join The Navy And See Olongapo

Paul Davis On Crime: My Crime Fiction: 'Boots On The Ground'

Paul Davis On Crime: My Crime Fiction: 'The 30-Day Detail'

Paul Davis On Crime: My Crime Fiction: 'Cat Street' 

Spy Writer Vs. Spy Writer: A Look Back At Ian Fleming and John le Carre

I recently read Nicholas Shakespeare’s Ian Fleming: The Complete Man, an excellent biography of the late, great thriller writer. 

(My On Crime column on the biography will soon appear in the Washington Times).   

And last year I read Adam Sisman’s interesting book on the secret life of the late John le Carre (I covered Mr. Sisman’s earlier biography of le Carre in my 2019 On Crime column for the Washington Times). 

Although both spy novelists have passed on, there is still much interest in the lives and works of both men. Both served in British intelligence prior to becoming writers. Ian Fleming served as a commander in British naval intelligence during WWII, and John le Carre served briefly in MI5 and MI6 after WWII.

Although the two were very different writers and men, the two are often compared. And John le Carre often criticized Ian Fleming, who was not then alive to respond.   

I wrote about the two writers in my Crime Beat column in 2010. You can read the column below: 

Spy Writer Vs. Spy Writer: John le Carre Calls 

Ian Fleming's Iconic James Bond Character A Neo-Fascist Gangster

Regarding John le Carre’s recent critical remarks about fellow thriller writer Ian Fleming’s iconic character James Bond, the author of The Spy Who Came In From The Cold and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, is right about one thing.

Le Carre is correct in stating that the Bond films have overtaken the books. It is true that the general public’s image of the fictional secret agent is that of the often silly, superman-like film character, rather than the darker, more complex and more realistic Bond character in the novels.

Le Carre is wrong about everything else.

Le Carre, aka former British intelligence officer David Cornwell, upon reviewing a 1966 BBC broadcast in which he was highly critical of Ian Fleming, calling his character James Bond “a neo-fascist gangster,” noted that he would be “much kinder” in his remarks today.

The 78-year-old, bitter leftist spy novelist then went on to state that Bond “would have gone through the same antics for any country if the girls had been so pretty and the martinis so dry.”

So much for being kinder.

“I dislike Bond,” le Carre told the BBC in 1966. “I’m not sure that Bond is a spy. I think that it’s a great mistake if one’s talking about espionage literature to include Bond in that category.

“It seems to me he’s more some kind of international gangster with, as it is said, a license to kill… he’s a man entirely out of the political context. It’s no interest to Bond who, for instance, is president of the United States or the Union of Soviet Republics.”

It was a pity that Fleming, who died in August of 1964, was not alive to respond.

I suggest that le Carre, like millions of thriller readers around the world, re-read the Fleming stories.

Although Fleming stated that his James Bond thrillers were highly romanticized and he wrote them unabashedly for entertainment (the public’s as well as his own), the novels portray a character based on the secret agents and military commandos Fleming met while serving as a British naval commander attached to naval intelligence in World War II. He also added a good bit of his own likes, dislikes and personality to the character.

The Bond character was driven primarily by a love of adventure and a strong sense of patriotism. He was all Queen and Country. He fought the good fight against communists, terrorists and criminals. He was a modern-day knight.

As for le Carre’s comment that Bond was not truly a spy, if he were to re-read the novels, he would discover that the character was a senior intelligence officer in the British Secret Service - the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), often referred to as MI6. 

Although he did not perform traditional intelligence officer duties, such as recruiting and controlling agents, Bond was sent out on missions to “spy” on and take out enemies of the Crown. Bond was a special operator.

Although the double-00 license to kill was a fictional device, there are in reality special operatives in the intelligence services of both the U.S. and the U.K who have special operations backgrounds and have skills in guns, knives, unarmed combat and explosives. These men, and some women, are hunting al Qaeda today.

“Everything I write has a precedent in truth,” Fleming said.

Although his thrillers had fantastic elements, many of his plots and characters were inspired by true events. A case in point is the plot of Goldfinger, in which a gold-crazed criminal mastermind plans to rob Fort Knox.

Ben Macintyre recently wrote a good piece for The London Times, in which he informs us that a German spy in WWII named Gustav Steinhauer planned to blow up the gold reserves of the Bank of England. Macintyre wrote that Fleming liked the interplay between truth and fiction.

In 1966, when le Carre recorded his disparaging remarks, Fleming was dead, but Bond-mania was in full bloom. Although le Carre’s novels sold well and he was critically acclaimed, Fleming’s thrillers were well on their way to selling 100 million copies world-wide. James Bond was a house-hold name around the world.

As for le Carre’s realism, I’ve interviewed a good number of former and current CIA and military intelligence officers who object strongly to the moral ambiguity found in his novels. Most Cold War intelligence officers were, like Bond, patriots who were dedicated to fighting communism.

British, American and other Western intelligence officers were certainly not like their utterly ruthless KGB and Eastern bloc counterparts who were defending a totalitarian, evil empire. There was a moral distinction between the Cold Warriors that you will not find in a le Carre novel.

And it should be noted that John Bingham, le Carre's boss and mentor at MI5, and reportedly the man le Carre based George Smiley on, despised le Carre's portrayal of British spies.

William F. Buckley Jr, the late conservative author, columnist and political talk show host, noted that films and novels in the 1960s and 1970s often portrayed CIA officers as no better than the KGB.

Having served briefly as a CIA officer, he objected.

Buckley said the CIA pushed little old ladies out of the way of moving cars, while the KGB pushed little old ladies into the path of the moving cars. People like le Carre say both the CIA and the KGB push around little old ladies.

Buckley, who wrote his own series of spy thrillers, believed the CIA and the Western intelligence services were a force for good in the Cold War.

I agree.

Despite the moral ambiguity, I used to like le Carre’s novels. But his most recent novels have been marred by his increasing anti-Americanism and leftist opinions.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a first-rate spy thriller, and in the novel le Carre offers a James Bond type of character with Peter Guillam, the tough guy head of the "Scalphunters." The Scalphunters were in le Carre's novels a group that performs the rough stuff one associates with James Bond.

And Peter Guillam was played in the TV mini-series by actor Michael Jayston, who was also considered for the role of James Bond at one point.

Yes, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a great Cold War thriller, but so is From Russia With Love.

Lastly, it should be noted that Fleming lost his father in combat in World War I and his younger brother in World War II. Ian Fleming was a British patriot, as was his creation, James Bond.

Note: You can read my Washington Times On Crime column on Ian Fleming via the below link: 

 Paul Davis On Crime: A Look Back At Ian Fleming, The Man Who Created James Bond: My Washington Times On Crime Column On Why The Bond Character Continues To Resonate

And you can read my Washington Time On Crime column on John le Carre via the below link:   

Paul Davis On Crime: My Washington Times Review Of 'John Le Carre: The Biography'

And you can read my Philadelphia Inquirer review of William Buckley's spy thriller Last Call for Blackford Oakes via the below link:

Paul Davis On Crime: My Philadelphia Inquirer Review Of William F. Buckley's 'Last Call For Blackford Oakes'

Thursday, May 23, 2024

My Crime Fiction: 'Old MacDonald Had A Gun'

The below short story originally appeared in American Crime Magazine.  

"Old MacDonald Had a Gun"

 By Paul Davis

I read about the hostage situation on a Pennsylvania dairy farm as the story came online. 

A wire service wrote that the dairy farmer’s name was Alfred MacDonald. 

And as he was in his late 70’s, he was old. 

I thought of the song, “Old MacDonald had a farm. Ee i ee i o. And on his farm he had some cows.” 

The hostage story interested me, and I was sure that the story would also interest the readers of my crime column in the local newspaper in Philadelphia. 

I called the county sheriff's office and interviewed the sheriff and one of his deputies over the phone. The deputy offered to reach out to Alfred MacDonald and tell him that I’d like to interview him as well.

Alfred MacDonald read the Philadelphia newspapers, so he knew me from my weekly column. He called me and consented to be interviewed. He invited me to his farm the following day.

Accompanied by a photographer, Tony Russo, we drove the two hours from South Philadelphia to the dairy farm. Although he was considered a small dairy farmer, the farm looked large to me, with more cows than I’d ever seen together in one place. 

MacDonald was of average height, lean and wiry, with thinning silver hair and a face weathered by the sun and wind. He took Tony and me to his house on the farm and introduced us to his wife, Darlene, his 52-year-old son, Jim, and his daughter-in-law, Jean. 

While Tony was taking photos of the farm, I was shown MacDonald’s business office. The room had a desk with a computer on it and some file cabinets, but the office had the look of an old-fashioned study, with a good number of books on shelves and shotguns, rifles and handguns in locked cabinets. Mounted on the walls were the heads of various animals that MacDonald had hunted in the past. 

MacDonald told me he was an avid reader, and when the men invaded his home, he thought immediately of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, in which a farm family had been murdered brutally by armed robbers.

As we sat in his office, MacDonald told me about the hostage situation. 

MacDonald and his wife, his son and daughter-in-law had sat down at the kitchen table to eat lunch when the four-armed men invaded the home. MacDonald was thankful that the grandchildren were in school.

The four men dragged a frightened young woman in with them. MacDonald knew two of the men. The two were Jimmy and Billy Huston, two of Buck Huston’s three sons. MacDonald didn’t know the other two men, but he could see they were hard and desperate men, criminals who would not hesitate to fire the guns they brandished as they entered the kitchen. MacDonald told his family to be still and calm.

The Huston boys were like their father, thieves who were in and out of prison. He despised the family, and he had run-ins with them in the past.

Jimmy, the second oldest of the criminal clan, spoke to MacDonald as he pointed his revolver in his face, “Listen up, old man. We need to hold up here for a while, so don’t get tough and no one will get hurt.”

MacDonald did not respond. 

One of the men, a dark, muscular and tattooed man of about 40, said to MacDonald, “You don’t look scared, old-timer. That makes me think about shooting you dead on the spot.” 

The other men laughed, which made MacDonald think the man was the leader of this criminal gang. 

“I’m scared shitless,” MacDonald said dryly. 

“Hank,’ Jimmy said to the man, “He’s a cantankerous old coot, but he won’t try nothing while we got his family covered.”

MacDonald’s wife served the armed men lunch, as if they were invited guests. The men sat at the table with their guns close by. MacDonald’s wife gave the young woman a glass of water and tried to calm her. 

MacDonald listened to the men talk as they eat, especially Jimmy Huston, who never stopped talking, and so he was able to discover what had transpired prior to their coming to the farm.

Jimmy Huston had served in prison with Hank Dawkins, and he often spoke of his “fool-proof” plan to rob the county bank and then race to a small airfield nearby, where Lenny, the eldest Huston, a pilot, owned a small plane. The bank robbers would then fly away with their stolen cash. “Leaving the cops in our dust,” as Jimmy Huston put it.  

After Jimmy Huston and Dawkins were released from prison some months apart, they met up and enlisted the other two Huston sons and a friend of Dawkins’s, a quiet and serious killer named Joe Wilson. 

The plan went wrong when a county deputy sheriff was waiting outside the door of the bank as the bank robbers began to file out. At the sight of the deputy behind his car, his service pistol pointed at them, they rushed back into the bank. Jimmy Huston, the gang’s getaway driver, slouched behind the wheel of his car so the deputy would not see him. 

The deputy remained behind his patrol car, as he was waiting for the sheriff and the other deputies to arrive. Inside the bank, Dawkins grabbed a young female teller, and holding her around the neck with his pistol held to her head, he walked outside and yelled to the deputy that he would kill the young woman if he tried to stop them. 

The deputy didn’t move as the three robbers and their hostage slipped into the getaway car. Jimmy Huston stepped heavily on the gas pedal and sped towards the airfield. The deputy got into his patrol car and followed the bank robbers at a safe distance while radioing the sheriff to update him on the robbery. 

As plans often do, several things went wrong in addition to the presence of the deputy outside the bank. First, Lenny Huston called and said he was having mechanical problems with the plane. He said he needed an hour to make repairs before they could take off. And second, there were three police cars blocking the highway as Jimmy raced to the airfield. 

Jimmy Huston saw the police cars and swung his car off onto a road that led to MacDonald’s dairy farm.

“There’re here.” Wilson said calmly as he looked out of the kitchen window. 

Dawkins got up from the table and looked out at a small crowd of MacDonald’s workers and three patrol cars with the officers armed with shotguns and rifles. 

“Old man,” Dawkins said to MacDonald. “Go out there and tell the cops we have hostages. Tell ‘em we’ll kill ‘em if they get in our way.” 

Without a word, MacDonald got up and walked outside. He told his workers to go home, or at least back up some. He walked up to the sheriff and told him what was happening in the house. MacDonald told him of the bank robbers’ plan to go to the airfield and fly off with the oldest Huston son.

The sheriff told MacDonald that they were waiting for the state police and an FBI team with a hostage negotiator to show up. Until then, they would take no action.

MacDonald walked back to his house and adjusted the Colt .45 M1911 semi-automatic in a holster clipped to his jeans and hidden under his khaki shirt worn outside of his jeans. He always wore the gun, even in his house, and now he was glad that he did.

MacDonald told Dawkins what the sheriff had said. 

“We have to bolt now,” Dawkins told the others. “Let’s bolt before the feds show up. Jimmy, call your brother and tell him we’re on our way, and he better have that fucking plane ready to fly.”

“We should take a second hostage,” Wilson told Dawkins. 

“Right, take grandmom there,” Dawkins said.

“No,” MacDonald said firmly. “Take me.”

“Women make better hostages, old-timer,” Dawkins said. “Don’t worry, we won’t hurt her unless the cops open up. Now sit down or we’ll kill all of you right now.” 

“That’ll let the cops know we’re serious,” Jimmy Huston said. 

MacDonald shot a disdainful look at the young criminal.

“We’ll go in two groups,” Dawkins told the gang. “Billy and me will take the teller and grandmom. Joe, you and Jimmy leave in fifteen minutes with this other woman. Tie the men up and take the old man’s car.”  

MacDonald looked at his wife and she gave him a nod to let him know that she would be fine. 

Dawkins went to the door with his arm wrapped around the teller neck. 

“Hey, we’re leaving with two hostages, “he yelled to the officers. “Don’t try to stop us or we’ll kill the hostages, and my men will kill everyone inside.”

Dawkins and Billy Huston rushed out to their car with the two women. The sheriff told his deputies to stay put. Thanks to MacDonald, he knew where the bank robbers were heading, and he had radioed the state police and told them to get to the airfield first.   

Back in the kitchen, Jimmy Huston watched three of the patrol cars pull out, leaving one car and one deputy.

He grabbed Jim MacDonald around the neck and lifted him out of his chair. “What time is it? Should we leave now?” 

Wilson took Jean by her arm gently and lifted her from her chair. 

“In a minute,” Wilson said. 

MacDonald drew his Colt .45 and placed the gun up against Wilson’s back and fired a round through the bank robber’s heart. Wilson dropped to the floor as Jean screamed in fear.

Jimmy Huston also screamed, and he backed up against the wall with Jim MacDonald in his grip. He saw Wilson dead on the floor and MacDonald crouched and pointing his gun at him. 

“I’ll kill your son,” Jimmy Huston warned. 

MacDonald fired. 

Jimmy Huston’s head exploded from the round. Jim MacDonald, his face covered in blood and brain matter, rushed to his wife on the floor alongside Repo.

The deputy, John Hayes, rushed in with his service pistol in hand. 

“There’re dead.” MacDonald said matter-of-factly.

McDonald told Hayes what had happened.

“Weren’t you afraid that Jimmy would kill your son?” Hayes asked MacDonald. 

“No,” MacDonald replied. “Jimmy Houston wasn’t a killer. He was a talker.”

“Where did you learn to do this, in Vietnam?” 

“No. I was stationed in West Germany during peace time before Vietnam, but I’ve been a hunter all my life.” MacDonald said. “And the animals I’ve hunted and killed were a lot smarter than these two.” 

Hayes and MacDonald drove to the airfield, but they stopped at a roadside bar, where MacDonald had spotted the bank robbers’ car in the parking lot. 

Hayes and MacDonald entered the bar and saw the bank robbers at a table, eating and drinking with their hostages. 

Apparently, the sheriff and his deputies had gone on to the airfield. 

Billy Huston had called his brother at the airfield and was told that the plane would not be repaired for anther half hour or so. Not wanting to wait at the airfield, Dawkins had the bold idea to stop off at the bar they passed for a drink and some food. He was feeling bold as he was certain he was safe as long as he had the women hostages. 

To feel even safer, he took a table with his back to the wall. 

But as Dawkins was drinking and eating heartily, he didn’t notice MacDonald slip behind him in the thin space between his chair and the wall.  

Billy Huston, sitting across from Hank, also didn’t see MacDonald. With his right hand on the gun tucked in his waistband, the right-handed bank robber was having difficulty using a fork with his left hand. 

Dawkins didn’t notice MacDonald come up behind him, but Darlene MacDonald did. 

She saw the gun in her husband’s hand and nodded.

MacDonald shot Dawkins in the back of his head. 

At that moment, Hayes came up behind Billy Huston and took the young criminal by the neck, lifting him out of his seat. The teller leaped away from the table as Billy Huston passed out.


“I’m glad that you and your family weren’t harmed,” I said to Alfred MacDonald after listening to his story. “You took quite a chance. Any regrets?” 

“Yeah,” MacDonald replied. “I regret I can’t mount their heads in my office.”

© 2020 Paul Davis  

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Does Philadelphia Need Krasner’s New Prolific Gun Offenders Unit?

Broad & Liberty ran my piece on the Philadelphia District Attorney’s new Prolific Gun Offenders Unit.

You can read the piece via the below link or the below text:

Paul Davis: Does Philadelphia need Krasner’s new Prolific Gun Offenders unit? (

Last month the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office announced the launch of a new prosecution entity, the Prolific Gun Offenders Unit. According to the DA’s office, the unit will focus on adults and juveniles who repeatedly and illegally possess firearms in the city of Philadelphia. 

Since the April 15th announcement, the DA’s office has not offered any updates on the unit or any Violation of Uniform Firearms Act (VUFA) prosecutions coming from the unit.

“The Prolific Gun Offenders Unit will prosecute the following gun offenses: Felon in Possession of a Firearm (VUFA 6105); Straw Purchases (VUFA 6111); Ghost Guns, Juveniles in Possession of Firearms (VUFA (6110.1)individuals who are arrested and charged with the manufacturing and distribution of polymer firearms, also known as ‘ghost guns,” the DA’s office announced on April 15th. “The Prolific Gun Offenders Unit will also utilize criminal intelligence gathering in collaboration with law enforcement and the Gun Violence Task Force to ascertain whether those arrested are actively involved with street groups who commit violence in Philadelphia.”

The DA’s office stated that assistant district attorneys assigned to the Prolific Gun Offenders Unit will also handle bail revocation hearings and will work closely with the DA’s Charging Unit to appeal low cash bail rulings by Philadelphia Bail Commissioners for those who pose a danger to the community.

“I extend my sincere thanks and gratitude to our partners in Philadelphia City Council for securing the funding to make this new initiative a reality,” said Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner. “I’m confident that under the leadership of Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Palmer, the Prolific Gun Offender Unit will vigorously and appropriately prosecute and convict the relatively small number of people who pose a significant threat to public safety in our city.”

Jeffery Palmer, the supervisor of the new unit, added, “We believe the Prolific Gun Offenders Unit will have a significant impact on violent crime and gun possession in Philadelphia. Through my work as assistant supervisor of the Gun Violence Task Force and Homicide and Non-Fatal Shootings Unit, I’m very familiar with the danger that illegal firearms pose to everyone in our city. The Prolific Gun Offender Unit will focus on the small percentage of people who pose a large risk to the safety and well-being of the wonderful people of Philadelphia.”

When I heard about the DA’s new unit, my first thought was how does one become a “prolific” gun offender in the first place? Shouldn’t these repeat offenders already be serving time in prison for illegal gun offensives?

Could it be that the prolific gun offenders are walking the street and committing more illegal gun crimes because Krasner and company did not properly prosecute them after their earlier arrests for gun offensives? 

Did Larry Krasner, known as “Let ‘Em Loose Larry” by cops and crooks alike, decide not to prosecute the illegal gun offenders or plea bargain the charges down to minor offenses? 

I reached out to retired Philadelphia Police Sergeant Gary Capuano and asked him what he thought of the new DA unit.  

“I don’t believe anyone defined what will be considered ‘prolific,’” the veteran Philly cop said. ‘Two arrests for illegal firearms? Three? Four? Five? Why does the city need another unit to do what has already been done for years? The Gun Violence Task Force is an example. There is also a program called GVI (Group Violence Intervention). 

“Philly Police continue to make record number arrests for illegal firearms, but the conviction rate of the District Attorney’s Office is low,” Capuano noted. “Some arrests for VUFA offensives have charges declined by the District Attorney’s Charging Unit, and the defendant is released, walking away free before the case even makes its way in front of a judge!” 

Capuno said that the reason for the low conviction rates may be because of the young, inexperienced assistant district attorneys Krasner hired, as well as the defendants being entered into diversionary programs rather than being fully prosecuted in court. 

“Isn’t establishing another unit to focus its efforts on prosecuting gun offenders admitting to the fact that the District Attorney’s Office has been failing the citizens of Philadelphia? It appears on the surface that the police are still doing their job. Police are taking illegal guns out of the hands of offenders in record numbers in spite of interference from politics and the lack of support from the top down,” Capuno said.

So, is the new unit a needless duplication of existing DA prosecutors and programs? Is the creation of the new unit simply a political ploy to make Larry Krasner appear to be tackling gun violence in Philadelphia? 

I’ll be curious to see the District Attorney’s future statistics from the Prolific Gun Offenders Unit.    

Paul Davis, a Philadelphia writer and frequent contributor to Broad + Liberty, also contributes to Counterterrorism magazine and writes the “On Crime” column for the Washington Times. He can be reached at