Monday, March 10th, 2008...2:17 pm
todd moore | outlaw poetry
Todd Moore is a poet in the shockism style. He says, “For your information gansta poetry in this country isn’t Bukowski’s invention, it’s mine. I’ve been making this kind of stuff since 1970 give or take. And, it has nothing to do with Bukowski’s style or subject matter. Bukowski was the pornagrapher of pussy and a damned good one at that. I’m the pornographer of violence.”
Todd Moore grew up in a brother/transient hotel. His father was a railroad man, a fireman, a bagman, a numbers runner, an acquantance of Capone and an aspiring novelist. About his childhood Moore has written: “By the time I was twelve I was a street thief and a damned good one. I’d already seen a guy who’d hanged himself and had nearly been cut in a knife fight. In some ways it was both the best and the worst of times.“ After an overextended stint as a schoolteacher and librarian in Illinois, he now lives with his wife in New Mexico. He has had nearly ninety books of poetry published since 1976. Todd Moore’s images are concrete both literally and figuratively: they are all-consuming street scenes that grumble resonant with rhythms of the digestive fluids in this country’s underbelly.
Moore illuminates the placental world that is as dark as a plum in a cold universe, because his technical virtuosity and grasp of realistic urban speech affords him the reach to open that envelope white door that few have the stomach for, be it a lack of hunger or a lack of courage. Being that it is best to write from the gut, Moore’s strength as a poet and a human being has been his ability to feed on this badly bruised heart of forbidden fruit and let the blood drip from the corners of his mouth onto the page in stripes that deserve fifty stars and an acknowledgment of an inner-city blues as real as shot up vericose veins. His best lines are molten steel that he lays in the grooves of the reader’s gray matter, and as eyes meet image and tongues rolls off words, there in the click-clack of recognition, and the spark of inspiration that was initiated in Moore becomes a conflagration in the mind of any American who does not whimper…” Nelson Gary, from The Outlaw Bible of Poetry
Todd Moore works in a trading post on Central Avenue here in Albuquerque selling tin sheriff badges to the tourists. He watches the whores stroll through the glass. He watches the methadone clinic amputees from around the corner. His white Saturn is parked inside a chain-link fence in back. The Outpost jazz club is next door. He sells them badges and waits till closing. Mark Weber
Todd Moore has been published in hundreds of magazines. Recent books include Working on my Duende and The Corpse is Dreaming (LRB # 20). This is his third book published by the Lummox Press. He was recently honored as Lummox of the Year 2000. It is his first award in 30 years.
The following Interview with Todd Moore was made by Anita L. Wynn December 1, 2006
Q: What initially inspired you to become a writer?
Todd Moore | I wanted to be a writer for almost as long as I can remember. My father, who was a railroad man and then a fireman, was both an alcoholic and a failed writer. He was a natural born storyteller and for about fifteen years tried writing novels. It was during this time that he got into the habit of reading parts of his novels to me. Even after he realized the futility of what he was trying to do and gave up writing, I continued to think of him as a writer.
I mention the alcoholism because that contributed both to his failure as a writer and to circumstances which landed the family in a skidrow hotel for twelve years. This really has nothing to do with inspiration, but the experiences I had in that hotel shaped me as a poet. I didn’t realize it at the time. In fact, it took a college education and another ten years before I finally began to discover who I really was and that mysterious thing called style. As for literary inspirations, I’ve always been drawn to the visceral in fiction and poetry. Hemingway was a big discovery. Ginsberg’s HOWL, Rimbaud, Plath’s ARIEL. Bukowski came later. I put off reading Bukowski even though I’d heard plenty about him simply because I had a story I wanted to dig out of me all on my own.
Q: Do you consider DILLINGER to be your magnum opus? What was the inspiration for that poem, beyond the obvious?
Todd Moore | DILLINGER is the big one. I have no doubt in my mind. It seems as though you can divide my work into some fairly distinct categories. There is the infamous short poem that I’m pretty well known for. I remember when I first started sending out those twenty line poems where the core of the poem is strictly action. I had had enough poems where the poet meditates on the problem of violence, death, time, love, or just simply taking a crap. What I wanted was a poem that gave you the visceral feel of the thing happening as it happened. I remember a friend once saying, you should’ve been a film director. My answer was, I need to write a poem that plays out like a movie.
I’ve also written the medium length long poem. For me, a poem that approaches a thousand lines in length is medium length. In the last ten years I’ve written several medium length long poems including WORKING ON MY DUENDE, which was published back in 1999 and is now out of print. Also, A SACRED MEMORY OF BILLY: NOTES FOR A DADA WESTERN, which is almost finished. The BILLY of the title is Billy the Kid.
However, DILLINGER is probably what I am mainly known for. I started writing it back in 1973. In 1976 I wrote the first really good section entitled “The Name Is Dillinger.” Since then I think I have written about a hundred or so sections. Each one is about 800 to 1500 lines in length.
When you mention the American epic, most people think of Pound’s THE CANTOS or Williams’ PATERSON. DILLINGER as it stands may be at least twice the size of THE CANTOS and many times longer than PATERSON. And, it is distinctly different because in those two long poems, there really is no central character unless you count the poet’s persona as character. However, Dillinger is portrayed as a real life person as well as an archetypal figure out of American history. And, because Dillinger is based on a real person, I have been able to see him with all his flaws, expectations, and desires. He is both as large as life and larger than life. This is why DILLINGER is not the typical American epic, even if you go as far back as Whitman’s SONG OF MYSELF. It’s a break with that whole tradition and it’s also a break with the classical idea of epic with Homer’s ILIAD and ODYSSEY. Dillinger is an outlaw, not a hero. Still, as an anti hero, Dillinger becomes a kind of American everyman because he comes closer to our collective renegade fantasies than nearly anyone else in American literature with the possible exceptions of Melville’s Ahab, Cormac McCarthy’s Judge Holden, and Fitzgerald’s Gatsby. Also, Dillinger has an inner life, something you usually don’t associate with criminals.
Q: For those readers who are not familiar with the “outlaw” school of poetry, how would you describe it, and the poets who follow it?
Todd Moore | In 1949, when my father landed the family in that skidrow hotel, I became an outlaw. I became an outlaw because I became an outcast. I became an outlaw, because for the first time in my life I realized what it meant to be down and out. I was twelve going on thirty. I became an outlaw because all of a sudden my friends were other kids who were street thieves. I became an outlaw because I was rubbing shoulders with all kinds of derelicts. I got to know all the hookers by there first names. I learned the art of shoplifting from the best. the word outlaw was second nature to me.
How I escaped jail or worse, I’ll never know. But I did realize that if I wanted to escape this cycle of petty crime and poverty, I’d better get an education. However, even after I graduated from college I still had some of that outlaw in me. And, even after I taught in the public schools for several years, that outlaw was still there. Finally, I realized that my skidrow background was what I was meant to write about. So, I present myself as a kind of explanation.
However, Outlaw Poetry has been around for a long time. It just has never been seen that way before. Francois Villon was probably the first Outlaw Poet. Arthur Rimbaud may be the most famous Outlaw Poet. Along with Lautreamont. Then segue to Hart Crane and down to the Beats. Ginsberg, Kerouac, Burroughs. Burroughs shot and killed his wife in a drunken orgy. The question remains: did he mean to or was it an accident? Then Charles Bukowski. Bukowski was a whole poetry movement unto himself. Bukowski was an enormous force in poetry in still is even though the snobs in academia refuse to give him any credit for it.
Bukowski and I were writing contemporaries though he started publishing about fifteen years before me. In some ways, we are two sides of the same coin. Bukowski grew up in a middle class home and at the age of eighteen opted for the down and out life. From the age of twelve until 1961, I lived the down and out life in a skidrow hotel. Bukowski didn’t really find his voice until his mid thirties. The same thing happened to me. Bukowski and I are both known for creating highly recognizable poetic styles. And, we have both pretty much been loners.
What is Outlaw Poetry? I’ve been writing it for almost forty years. But I haven’t always thought of it as Outlaw. I’ve known it was outside the acceptable limits of polite poetry. I think the force and thrust of things outlaw really picked up impetus with the publication of THE OUTLAW BIBLE OF AMERICAN POETRY edited by Alan Kaufman and S. A. Griffin, Thunders Mouth Press, 1999. I am told this is the best selling poetry anthology ever. And while it is flawed and fat with celebrities, it is also maybe the most important anthology to come down the pike in many years.
Outlaw Poetry, basically, is a stance against academia and the writing degree establishment. Outlaw Poetry is also a stance against the politically correct in poetry. Outlaw Poetry comes along at a time when the arts in general and poetry in particular are moribund, stale, boring, cowardly, candyassed, and dead. Pick up any major poetry mag. The American Poetry Review, or Poetry Magazine are the best examples. The dead wood practically falls off the page. And, try this test. When was the last time you read a poem that truly made the goose bumps crawl up your back. That popped your eyes into your soup? When was the last time a poem mattered so much you jumped out of your chair but didn’t exactly know where it was you were going except that you had to be going somewhere, it was that important to you. For me, this happens almost on a never basis. I have to go back to Whitman or Pound or Eliot or Crane or Tom McGrath or the best of Ted Hughes.
The big problem in our society is that academia owns poetry lock, stock, grant, kiss my ass rewards, and blowjob poetry chairs. The small press is the ghetto. There are no honors there, there are no awards there. There is no money. And, the irony is that the small press is where some of the most important poetry is being written today. Keep this thought in mind. There are no Outlaw Poets writing in academia. Zero. There are no Outlaw Poets teaching poetry in academic writing programs today or really ever. Outlaw Poets, if anything, come from the dark side. Outlaw Poets live at the edge of the edge. Outlaw Poets do not live off foundation money.
Before I bail out of this question, let me list some of the Outlaw Poets whose work matters and is making a difference. Tony Moffeit, Dennis Gulling, John Dorsey, Kell Robertson, Mark Weber, John Macker, R. D. Raindog Armstrong, Scott Wannberg, and S. A. Griffin, among others. Other Outlaws to keep an eye on are Christopher Robin, Misti Rainwater Lites, Joe Pachinko, Theron Moore. And, I apologize to those whose names I have inadvertently left out. I’m not so sure I answered this question except for bludgeoning it to death.
Q: What poets, if any, have inspired you? Classical, or neo-classical influences?
Todd Moore | Influences are like time bombs or floating mines in the psyche. They float around inside the dark and have a way of going off when you least expect it. Shakespeare is always there. Melville for MOBY DICK, Faulkner’s THE BEAR, Fitzgerald’s GATSBY, Hemingway’s Santiago in THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA, Bukowski’s continuing saga of CHINASKI, Steinbeck’s THE GRAPES OF WRATH, and much of Dostoevsky. Lately, Tony Moffeit, Mark Weber, John Macker.
Q: I have asked other famous poets this question, and I’d also like you to weigh in on it…what is your opinion of critics in general? Do you think they should have the power to determine the direction of poetry?
Todd Moore | I have almost always been at war with critics. Harold Bloom is probably the classic example of the snob critic in America. His close second is Helen Vendler. Bloom’s dilemma is that he wasn’t born Shakespeare so he’s decided to install Shakespeare as god of the literary canon. Vendler’s problem is that she wasn’t born as T. S. Eliot. These two critics are hellbent for leather to maintain a strict canon which has completely overlooked the poets and writers of the small press in America. As far as they are concerned Bukowski never existed. Or, anyone else from the lower depths. The kind of criticism they espouse takes no chances, brooks no risks, invites no dares, loves no poem that is not Harvard clean and New York Times Book Review sanctioned. These kinds of closed in and closed up critics are part of the reason for Outlaw Poetry.
Q: I have read in one of your essays about the “unknown territory” a poet should explore…the frightening “no-man’s-land” within each of us. Could you tell us a little about how you made this discovery?
Todd Moore | Everyone has an unconscious. Everyone has a dark river flowing just under the skin and down through the blood. I’ve always more or less known about this kind of darkness through such characters as Hamlet, the Karamazovs, Ahab, Faust, Judge Holden. It really wasn’t until I started getting deeper into Dillinger that I realized this no man’s land was part of all of us. My breakthrough into this country happened when I wrote “The Corpse Is Dreaming” which I later incorporated into “The Dead Zone Trilogy” which forms the last three long sections of DILLINGER. “The Dead Zone Trilogy” is what Jung would call a Nekyia, a journey into the deepest part of the psyche. What I wanted to do with Dead Zone was try to get inside Dillinger’s experience of what it felt like to be shot to death and then go from there. I wasn’t interested in the cliché of your life passing before your eyes at the point of death. I was trying for a combination of THE TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD and THE BOOK OF REVELATIONS, all of it sort of mixed together into a cluster of death metaphors, a potent death stew. I’m still not sure if I got there, but I think I came close.
Q: Do you ever feel any pressure, now that you’re well known, to tame your brutal honesty in your poetry?
Todd Moore | It’s what I do, what I have to do.
Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring poet?
Todd Moore | This might be the toughest question of all. First, you have to understand, there is no money in poetry. Most of the poets I have known have worked at something else to survive. Then, there is the example of Charles Bukowski. Bukowski actually became a well to do writer later in life. But, he is the exception to the rule. Becoming the next Bukowski is kind of like trying to win the Lotto. What are the odds at that, like a billion or so to one? Whatever. There are two ways to go as a poet. You can get into a writing program, work toward the MFA and basically become inauthentic and at best a very mediocre poet. Or, you can dig the poems out of your own guts. This is tougher but in the long run, you’ll be able to look at your face in the mirror. And, yes, there are no guarantees. We live in a big country where more and more almost no one reads poetry, let alone reads at all. Most people, both educated and not, do not give a royal fuck about poetry in the first place. Little do these folks realize that without poetry, this country would become the next thing to lobotomized. Not that we aren’t close right now. The fact is, we probably need poetry now more than we have ever needed it before. We need the power of the word, we need the witness of the power, we need great poems, great works of art and not just for a kind of absolution but also for our national survival.
Thank you very much, Todd. We appreciate your thoughts very much.
some facts about John Dillinger:
John Dillinger (June 22, 1903 – July 22, 1934) was an American bank robber, considered by some to be a dangerous criminal, while others idealized him as a latter-day Robin Hood. He gained this reputation (and the nickname “Jackrabbit”) for his graceful movements during bank heists, such as leaping over the counter (a movement he supposedly copied from the movies) and narrow getaways from police. His exploits, along with those of other criminals of the 1930s Depression era, such as Bonnie and Clyde and Ma Barker, dominated the attentions of the American press and its readers during what is sometimes referred to as the public enemy era, between 1931 and 1935, a period which led to the further development of the modern and more sophisticated FBI.
Dillinger was born on June 22, 1903, in Indiana, Indiana, and grew up in nearby Mooresville. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy, but deserted within a few months and was later dishonorably discharged. Dillinger returned to Indiana where he married a local girl named Beryl Hovious and attempted to settle down. However, he had difficulty holding a job and his marriage disintegrated. One night in 1924, a small-time criminal who was a friend of Dillinger convinced him to collaborate in the mugging of a well-known grocer named Frank Morgan. The two believed that the grocer carried a large amount of cash. They were soon captured. Dillinger’s friend employed a lawyer and received only two years in jail, whereas Dillinger, unable to afford legal representation, was convicted and sentenced to 10-20 years in prison despite having no prior criminal record. Dillinger was paroled after serving 9 years.
Dillinger embraced the criminal lifestyle behind bars, learning the ropes from seasoned bank robbers like Harry Pierpont of Muncie, Indiana and Russell “Boobie” Clark of Terre Haute. The men planned heists that they would commit soon after they were released. Once Dillinger was released from Michigan City Prison, he helped conceive a plan for the escape of Pierpont, Clark and several others, most of whom worked in the prison laundry. The group known as the “first Dillinger gang” included Pierpont, Clark, Charles Makley, Edward W. Shouse, Jr., of Terre Haute, Harry Copeland, “Oklahoma Jack” Clark, Walter Dietrich and John “Red” Hamilton. Homer Van Meter and Lester Gillis (a.k.a. Baby Face Nelson) were among those who joined the “second Dillinger gang” after he escaped from the county jail at Crown Point, Indiana. Altogether, gangs with whom Dillinger was believed to have been associated robbed about a dozen banks and stole over $300,000, an enormous sum in the Depression era, totaling nearly five million in today’s economy.
Dillinger served time at the Indiana state penitentiary at Michigan City, until 1933, when he was paroled. Within four months, he was back in jail in Lima, Ohio, but the gang sprang him, killing the jailer Sheriff Jessie Sarber. Most of the gang was captured again by the end of the year in Tucson, Arizona due to a fire at the Historic Hotel Congress. Dillinger alone was sent to the Lake County jail in Crown Point, Indiana. He was to face trial for the suspected killing of Officer William O’Malley during a bank shootout in East Chicago, Indiana, some time after his escape from jail. During this time on trial, the famous photograph was taken of Dillinger putting his arm on prosecutor Robert Estill’s shoulder when suggested to him by reporters. On March 3, 1934, Dillinger escaped from the “escape-proof” (as it was dubbed by local authorities at the time) Crown Point, Indiana county jail which was guarded by many police and national guardsmen. Newspapers reported that Dillinger had escaped using a wooden gun blackened with shoe polish. Dillinger further embarrassed the town, as well as then-42-year-old Sheriff Lillian Holley, by driving off in her brand new V-8 Ford. The press augmented her chagrin with such headlines as: “Slim woman, mother of twins, controlled Dillinger as sheriff.” Incensed, Holley declared at the time, “If I ever see John Dillinger again, I’ll shoot him dead with my own gun. Don’t blame anyone else for this escape. Blame me. I have no political career ahead of me and I don’t care.”
Driving across the Indiana-Illinois state line in a stolen vehicle, Dillinger violated a federal law and thus caught the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. An investigation concerning the facts of the escape was carried out some time later by the Hargrave Secret Service of Chicago, Illinois on the orders of the Illinois governor. The governor and Illinois state Attorney General Philip Lutz eventually chose not to release information because they did not want Dillinger to know of the informants with whom they spoke. As a result the findings about the gun in the escape were never made public, and this, coupled with Dillinger himself actively perpetuating the wooden gun story as an ego boost, is a reason many believe the “wooden gun” escape was real. The truth behind the infamous gun may never be known. Once out of prison, he continued to rob banks. The United States Department of Justice offered a $20,000 reward on June 23 for Dillinger’s capture, or $5,000 for information leading to his apprehension.
In April, the gang settled at a lodge hideout called Little Bohemia owned by Emil Wanatka, in the northern Wisconsin town of Manitowish Waters. The gang assured the owners that they would give no trouble, but the gang monitored the owners whenever they left or spoke on the phone. Emil’s wife Nan and her brother managed to evade Baby Face Nelson, who was tailing them, and mailed a letter of warning to a U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago, which later contacted the FBI. Days later, a score of FBI agents led by Hugh Clegg and Melvin Purvis approached the lodge in the early morning hours. Two barking watchdogs announced their arrival, but the gang was so used to Nan Wanatka’s dogs that they did not bother to inspect the disturbance. It was only after the FBI mistakenly gunned down 3 innocent Civilian Conservation Corps workers (as they were about to drive away in a car) that the Dillinger gang awoke. Gunfire between the groups lasted only momentarily, but the whole gang managed to escape in various ways despite the FBI’s efforts to surround and storm the lodge. Agent W. Carter Baum was shot dead by “Baby Face Nelson” during the gun battle.
Dillinger’s last day of freedom was July 22, 1934. Dillinger attended the film Manhattan Melodrama (coincidentally, a gangster film) at the Biograph Theater in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago with his girlfriend, Polly Hamilton, and Ana Cumpanas (a.k.a. Anna Sage), who was facing deportation charges for running a brothel. Sage worked out a deal with Purvis and the FBI to set up an ambush for Dillinger and drop the deportation charges against her. When they exited the theater that night, Sage tipped off the FBI agents who opened fire into Dillinger’s back, killing him. Dillinger was struck three times, twice in the chest, one actually nicking his heart, and the fatal shot, which entered the back of his neck and exited just under his right eye. According to Purvis, Dillinger died without saying a word.
Sage had identified herself to agent Melvin Purvis by wearing an agreed-upon orange and white dress, which due to the night lights, led to the enduring notion of the “Lady in Red” as a betraying character. Though she had delivered Dillinger as promised, Sage was still deported to her home country of Romania in 1936, where she remained until her death 11 years later. Contrary to newspaper accounts and later depictions in a score of movie re-enactments, those waiting in ambush outside the Biograph Theater that night were operating under the understanding that Dillinger was to be shot on sight. Purvis had assembled a team of both FBI agents and hired guns from police forces outsdie Chicago (Milwaukee, Michigan City, Indiana, etc.) because it was felt that the Chicago police had been compromised and could not be trusted. As a matter of fact, during the stakeout, the Biograph’s manager thought the agents were hoodlums that were setting up a robbery. He called the Chicago police who dutifully responded and had to be waved off by Purvis, who told them that they were on a stake out for a much more mundane quarry. Earlier in the day, Sage had called Purvis and told him that Jimmy Lawrence was going to the movies that night and might even go to two separate shows just to avoid the murderous heat that was smothering Chicago that week. Two theaters were mentioned. One was downtown, and the other was on the North side (the Biograph). Not chancing another embarassing getaway, Purvis split the team of shooters in two and dispatched one team downtown while he accompanied the other group to the Biograph. Three times that night he told the crews to “insure there was no escape”.
He also warned them repeatedly to “not take any chances with Dillinger”. When the movie let out, Purvis stood by the front door and signaled Dillinger’s exit by lighting a cigar. Both Purvis and the agents reported that Dillinger turned his head and looked driectly at Purvis as he walked by, glanced across the street, and then moved ahead of his female companions and bolted into a nearby alley where he quickly came under fire from a number of different guns. No warnings or verbal communications of any kind were exchanged. Two women bystanders were slightly wounded in the legs and buttocks by flying bullet and brick fragments. An ambulance was summoned and although it was clear that Dillinger had quickly died from his gunshot wounds, he was taken to a nearby hospital where his corpse was briefly placed on the grass outside the emergency room where a harried intern came out and officially pronounced Dillinger dead. The body was then taken to the Cook County morgue where the body was repeatedly photographed and death masks were made by local morticians in training, who inadvertently damaged the facial skin. Throughout that night and most of the next day, a huge throng of curiosity seekers paraded through the morgue to catch a glimpse of Dillinger in death. The chief medical examiner finally complained that this mob was interfering with his occupation and Cook County sherrif’s deputies were posted to keep these macabre tourists at bay. There were also reports of people dipping thier handerkerchiefs and skirts into the pools of blood that had formed as Dillinger lay in the alley in order to secure keepsakes of the entire affair.
Dillinger is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis. His gravestone is often vandalized by people removing pieces as souvenirs.
To this day, loyal fans continue to observe “John Dillinger Day” (July 22) as a way to remember the fabled bank robber. Even at the scene of his death outside the theater, several witnesses soaked their handkerchiefs in his blood as a sort of souvenir of the legend. Members of the “John Dillinger Died for You Society” traditionally gather at the Biograph Theater on the anniversary of Dillinger’s death and retrace his last walk to the alley where he died, following a bagpiper playing “Amazing Grace”. Dillinger and his men had a hideout in Langlade County just south of Forest County, Wisconsin along Highway 55, which is now a small bar named Forest Inn.
To this day, there are doubts whether Dillinger actually died on July 22, 1934. Some researchers (chief among them famed Chicago crime writer Jay Robert Nash) believe that the dead man was in truth a petty criminal from Wisconsin named Jimmy Lawrence, who had dated Dillinger’s sometime girlfriend Billie Frechette and bore a close resemblance to the famed bank robber. Some people who knew him said they did not recognize the body; in fact, Dillinger’s father had suddenly exclaimed when first seeing his son’s corpse, “That’s not my boy!” After all, John Dillinger did receive rather crude plastic surgery some time before his death. Moreover, if indeed the agents did mistake Lawrence for Dillinger, the FBI would have had a strong incentive to cover up such a blunder, since J. Edgar Hoover was on the verge of being fired as Bureau director in the wake of the extensive public outrage over the earlier Little Bohemia incident. An autopsy contained information that was controversial, such as:
* The corpse had brown eyes. Dillinger’s were grey, according to police files.
* The body showed signs of some childhood illness which Dillinger never had.
* The body showed a rheumatic heart condition, yet according to the later testimony of Dr. Patrick Weeks — Dillinger’s physician at Indiana State Prison — Dillinger could not have suffered from this disease as he was an avid baseball player while in prison and had served in the Navy.
* The body was positively identified as John Dillinger by his sister Audrey, through a scar on his leg received in childhood.
* The mistake concerning the corpse’s eyes may have been an error on the part of the coroner resulting from eye discoloration caused by a traumatic head wound or decomposition in the intense summer heat.
* The FBI has at least two sets of post-mortem fingerprints of the dead man. Though scarred by acid, the prints were clearly identifiable as those of John Dillinger.
Yet another disturbing fact remains: The small Colt semi-automatic pistol that Dillinger had allegedly drawn on the approaching FBI agents outside the Biograph (and was for years shown in a display case at FBI Headquarters along with Dillinger’s death mask) was not his; it had, in fact, been manufactured five months after Dillinger’s death, which supports the claim that the FBI agents, without warning, shot and killed an unarmed Dillinger.
In 1963 the newspaper The Indianapolis Star received a letter from a person called “John Dillinger” with a return address in Hollywood, California. The letter contained a photo of a man who looked like a more aged Dillinger. When this was ignored, another letter was sent to Emil Wanatka Jr, the proprietor of the Little Bohemia Lodge.
A 2006 Discovery Channel documentary titled The Dillinger Conspiracy examined the legends surrounding his death. Several historians, detectives, and forensic scientists examined the autopsy, the 1963 letter, and Zarkovich’s gun to determine the true story behind his death. Ultimately, the show suggested Zarkovich fired the final bullet which did in fact kill Dillinger, and that FBI was complicit in his death.