Great Murders of San Francisco and Los Angeles

Yesterday while foodling on the Internet I discovered a retired police detective in San Francisco has been creating Google My Maps of all the San Francisco murders, year by year.  Great Murders of 1933, Baffling Murders of 1943, Drive-By Shootings of 1953 – you get the idea.  He doesn’t seem to have gone beyond the Fifties yet.  This is helpful data for a novelist.  And I can learn what neighborhoods not to move to if I go back in time.  I hope he reopens and then solves all those cases now that he’s retired.

My grandfather also was murdered (this is true), and it had a huge impact on the family right down to today.  Everybody knew who murdered him (it was his business partner) but the guy got off scot free.  The D.A. who prosecuted him later went to San Quentin for accepting bribes.

This happened in roaring LA in the 1920s.  My grandfather was a man in his forties with a young family – on his way up.  Here’s a picture of him in 1922 standing by one of his oil wells.

He was a wheeler-dealer, a millionaire on paper, but he’d built a house of cards only he knew how to hold together.  So when the crash came, the family, including all the country cousins who came out from Kansas to work for him, were back on the street – figuratively speaking.  We couldn’t even pay the property taxes on our Pasadena mansion.

Over the years I’ve thought of writing a book about the whole sordid story.  It has the makings of a bestseller and it would satisfy my itch to know.  The shock waves from the murder reverberated through my childhood even though my grandmother and mother would never talk about it.  But it’s pretty rough stuff too and I would have to face issues like – was my grandfather a crook like his business partners? I don’t think he was, but what if?  Do I want to know?

Once I went to Los Angeles, spent a couple days there reading the newspaper accounts of the 1924 murder and trial in the public library, I went to the Hall of Records and found the will of the man who shot Grandpa down, I went to the morgue to see if they still had a file on the case.  They did, but it contained only one sheet of paper.

But I ultimately decided I didn’t want to spend the next five years in the company of some unpleasant people who thought about money all the time while I wrote a book about them.  I moved on to the next subject – a strawberry ice cream soda at the Colorado Street Creamery.

I’d still like to read that book if somebody else would write it.  Aprilbaby would be a good choice, she needs a new bestseller.  But all in all I think I’m glad I moved on to the trippy hippie stuff.  My memories are lot more fun.

Footnote:  There seems to be no way to link directly to a My Maps map.  To see the murder maps, click on my link, which will bring you to Google Maps for San Francisco. In the left-hand column, click on the My Maps tab. Now drag down to ‘Featured Content’, then check the box at ‘Popular user-created maps’.  That will bring up a lot of content – drag through it and you will see links to the murder maps.


9 thoughts on “Great Murders of San Francisco and Los Angeles

  1. Chris (Pondering Pig) –

    Wow! I’m honored that you, such a wonderful writer and thoughtful man, would mention me this way. Thank you.

    Geez, in my quest to focus on my writing, I’ve done myself a great disservice not visiting your wonderful blog (and I’m not just kissing up to you). You have plenty of great material I’m going to spend some time catching up with. Looks like I’ll be here a while. But I bet I’ll be inspired to ponder my own thoughts, afterward.

    Thanks, again.


  2. Have you ever read any of James Ellroy’s stuff? Probably his best known work is “LA Confidential.” One of his earliest books, possibly his very first, detailed his investigation into the unsolved 1958 murder of his mother in El Monte when he was 10 years old.

    I read that book many years ago and recall that it was, as might be expected, intense and very dark. I also recall that his wrting style was brisk, clipped and saturated with fragments. I kept thinking this reads like something Joe Friday might have written.


  3. Professor Pig-
    Your story does have the makings of a bestseller. I would certainly read it (maybe even in hardcover) and pay to see the resulting Hollywood blockbuster.
    And, like Michele, I am spending way too much time reading through your work. I have been haunted for days by the imagery you painted in “Leslie in the Crystalline Night” and memories of my own innocent love and of a city that no longer quite exists. For these and so many other reasons, I have decided to make you my honorary uncle. I trust you to live up to all the responsibility, and lack thereof, that the honorarium implies.
    As my first act of nephewdom, I have some Playland photos to send you, if you can tell me how to do so.


  4. It seems odd that anyone would want to be the nephew of a talking pig. I’m one myself and never found it of much help. My uncle, Swinish McTavish, is a kind of gentleman detective. He and his young protegee Emerald Lake travel the world in a 1948 Rolls Royce solving strange and mystic crimes. You can read more about him in The Strange Case of Wyatt Earp’s Tombstone.
    However, if you’re still sure you want to join the talking pigs, I will have papers drawn up by my attorneys, Trotter & Snout. They are often trustworthy, especially if you happen to be penniless.

    Now, to the photos. I must have them immediately. Deadlines approach, you know. Please send directly to

    And be sure you spell the name right, If you accidentally send them to the Pilfering Pig, you’ll never see them again.


  5. Uncle Pig-

    I have directed Richard Lard, Esq. to contact T&S to review their draft agreement. I trust negotiations will proceed without incident.

    It’s not as if I don’t alreaady have a Baby Beatnik uncle, but the one I have has soured over the years, ceasing his cartoon art and leaning farther and farther to the right (but never losing the goatee). Hard to believe he was raised on Dago Red and MAD magazines, but there it is.

    As for the photos, I dispatched them from a seldom-used program and would appreciate it if you would tell me whether I have frittered away yet another deadline without delivering the goods.

    And the Pilfering Pig? I’ll not make THAT mistake again.



  6. Poor old Lard. Never seems to get it right. I still haven’t haven’t received the Funhouse sign photos. Why don’t you send me an email and we can sort this out offline?


  7. I am convinced that I was a target of “Murder”. This occurred in North Beach, San Francisco and I identified the culprits who I believe they are a murder for hire gang where they make it look like a robbery but in reality they are out to murder for hire. I am convinced if we visit all deaths in North Beach San Francisco, on the Streets of North Beach we may find restaurant businesses and businesses in general are contracting murder on the homeless of North Beach.
    Thank you,
    “Captain Democracy”


  8. Your story is solved. Go back to 1924 and see who was in the oil business in Pasadena. They set up his partner so that nobody would know it was the oil competion that did it. Who benifeits is the one who did it! check oil in pasadena 1924!
    “Captain Democracy”


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