Omaha native Brian James Beerman has always loved history.
A graphic artist and web designer by profession, Beerman had worked off and on for the past 20 years on his first book: “Nebraska’s Missing Public Enemy: The Last of the Ghost Gang.”
He had written historical articles for publications before, but this is his first full length book, published earlier this year in August.
The story follows a gang of bank robbers, including Maurice Denning, who started off as a criminal. Denning bootlegged in Council Bluffs, according to the provided press release.
Denning was one of the most wanted men in the 1930s, yet had mysteriously disappeared.
“I felt like there was a story there that hadn’t been told yet,” Beerman said. “I saw an article in the Omaha World-Herald from an old newspaper in 1936, and I saw he was from the Omaha/Council Bluffs area and got interested in the story that way.”
The book is nonfiction based on newspaper articles and government documentation, including FBI information, about Denning and the gang.
“The main focus is (Denning), his background and his disappearance,” he said. “There is also quite a bit of stuff about his gang, like Tom Limerick from Council Bluffs who ended up in Alcatraz and died trying to escape. He was a pretty notorious character at the time. Maurice’s wife, who grew up in Council Bluffs, had a pretty interesting story, as well.”
Limerick and other gang members were also infamous residents of Council Bluffs, the release said.
“(Denning) disappeared and was never found. They looked for him officially until the 1960’s and there are reports they continued looking up until the 1970s but were never able to find him,” Beerman said.
The search ended as most of the witnesses to the bank robberies at the time would not be able to identify him. Denning was thought to be dead as most people had not heard from him in 25 to 30 years.
Beerman said he recommends this book for readers interested in history or historic true crime.
“I tried to make the book as exciting as I could, and I didn’t embellish anything. It’s all factual,” he said. “I hope that readers will find it an interesting story they maybe hadn’t heard about before; get interested in the history of the area they were may be unaware of.”