Author details decades of downers in ‘Scandalous St. Louis’ | book reviews

Joplin native Linda Dobkins (writing under the pen name Jo Allison) has put together a dark side story of St. Louis, titled “Storied & Scandalous St. Louis” – and captioned “A History of Breweries, Baseball, Prejudice, and Manifestation.”

Phew. In fact, it’s the negative news story that lands on page 1 and leads the local TV news. Yet author Allison begins her story long before St. Louis had television stations.

It opens in pioneer St. Louis, where fur traders regularly had a wife and house and another wife or two at the Native American campgrounds the traders regularly visited.

The Post-Dispatch provides the setting for a violent 1882 tale. An Alonzo Slayback accused the paper of unfairly attacking a politician it supported. He walked into the office of editor John Cockerill, who ended up fatally shooting Slayback.

And so Allison weathers the decades of inconvenience: the Dred Scott decision and its unfortunate ramifications…the so-called Spanish Flu of 1918…the long-running corruption at City Hall…the short-lived legalization duration of prostitution from 1870 to 1974 (“Brothels were a no-no”, writes Allison, “but they existed under a system of discretion on the part of police and politicians.”) … the tornadoes of 1896 and 1927…the Budweiser-Falstaff rivalry…even the East St. Louis race riot of 1917.

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His story ends in the middle of the 20th century, which spares readers the criminal gunshots of today’s St. Louis. This time limit, along with the setting right here in St. Louis, also spares readers what many may consider the worst night in town.

It was October 26, 1985, in Kansas City. There, baseball umpire Don Denkinger made a call, leaving the Kansas City Royals to steal the World Series from the Cardinals.

Manchester’s Harry Levins retired in 2007 as the Post-Dispatch’s senior editor.

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Alycia R. Lindley