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Chicago Heights

Chicago Heights

Little Joe College, the Outfit, and the Fall of Sam Giancana

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Charles Hager with David T. Miller, Foreword by Louis Corsino, Afterword by Ashleigh D'Andrea


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
184 pages, 6 x 9, 14 illustrations


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About the Book

Winner, ISHS Best of Illinois History Award, 2019

In this riveting true story of coming of age in the Chicago Mob, Charles “Charley” Hager is plucked from his rural West Virginia home by an uncle in the 1960s and thrown into an underworld of money, cars, crime, and murder on the streets of Chicago Heights.
Street-smart and good with his hands, Hager is accepted into the working life of a chauffeur and “street tax” collector, earning the moniker “Little Joe College” by notorious mob boss Albert Tocco. But when his childhood friend is gunned down by a hit man, Hager finds himself a bit player in the events surrounding the mysterious, and yet unsolved, murder of mafia chief Sam Giancana.
Chicago Heights is part rags-to-riches story, part murder mystery, and part redemption tale. Hager, with author David T. Miller, juxtaposes his early years in West Virginia with his life in crime, intricately weaving his own experiences into the fabric of mob life, its many characters, and the murder of Giancana.
Fueled by vivid recollections of turf wars and chop shops, of fix-ridden harness racing and the turbulent politics of the 1960s, Chicago Heights reveals similarities between high-level organized crime in the city and the corrupt lawlessness of Appalachia. Hager candidly reveals how he got caught up in a criminal life, what it cost him, and how he rebuilt his life back in West Virginia with a prison record.
Based on interviews with Hager and supplemented by additional interviews and extensive research by Miller, the book also adds Hager’s unique voice to the volumes of speculation about Giancana’s murder, offering a plausible theory of what happened on that June night in 1975. 


Charles Hager gradually worked his way from sweeping up his uncle’s bar to earning responsibility and trust as a friend of the Chicago Outfit. He left the Heights in 1975 and built a series of successful businesses in West Virginia and North Carolina.
David T. Miller is a writer and editor based in Lexington, Kentucky. He contributed to several books and edited Earned in Blood: My Journey from Old-Breed Marine to the Most Dangerous Job in America by Thurman Miller.


“This distinctly personal memoir of mob life as it played out for Charles Hager in Chicago Heights, Illinois, in the 1960s and 1970s is a candid, revealing, and up-close statement about gangster life on the fringe. It’s not a world of glamour and the Godfather. It’s tough. It’s gritty. It’s violent and it’s often ugly.”—Richard C. Lindberg, author of Gangland Chicago: Criminality and Lawlessness in the Windy City

“This book provides a fascinating look into one of the most famous murders in gangland history. It also challenges widely held beliefs about the organization of the Outfit, the traditional organized crime group in Chicago. Easily readable and insightful.”—Robert M. Lombardo, author of Organized Crime in Chicago: Beyond the Mafia

“This is a well-written ‘personal document’ in the Chicago School tradition, indispensable for those who want to understand the day-to-day workings of the Outfit.”—John M. Hagedorn, author of The Insane Chicago Way: The Daring Plan by Chicago Gangs to Create a Spanish Mafia

"A simply fascinating contribution to the growing library of American organized crime biographies and histories in general, and the Chicago Outfit in particular, "Chicago Heights: Little Joe College, the Outfit, and the Fall of Sam Giancana" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal reading lists, as well as community, and academic library Organized Crime collections and supplemental studies reading lists in particular."--Carl Logan, Midwest Book Review