Bill Nunes was pretty sure he was done writing about East St. Louis and the metro-east.
But an encounter with the son of Frank "Buster" Wortman, the gangster who controlled the East Side until his death in 1968, piqued his interest and the result will be another book.
"Actually most of it is finished," Nunes said. "But I'm having trouble finding a picture of the Paddock Lounge in East St. Louis. That was his main base of operations. That is where Wortman ran his empire. It was quite notorious."
He is sort of bemused about the problem. He said there were so many stories about Wortman, with his arrests and involvement in murder investigations, that he thought sure there would be some newspaper photos, but there wasn't much.
Nunes, a retired teacher, said this is his 19th book. Probably his most famous is his book about growing up in East St. Louis in the 1930s and 1940s. He also has written about crime, nostalgia and trivia in both the metro-east and St. Louis.
He said sometimes it can be hard to find information on the secretive gangster Wortman. Newspapers are the best source but they sometimes have confusing information.
He also said he has found several books that refer to prison time that Wortman spent in Alcatraz.
"Everything I've been able to find says he spent all his time at Leavenworth," Nunes said. "I've looked through indexes of Alcatraz and he doesn't show up in any of them."
Another mystery is Wortman's birth.
"So far I have not been able to find a birth certificate for Wortman," he said. "Everything seems to point toward St. Louis but my researcher hasn't found the actual certificate."
Nunes said anyone with interesting stories about Buster Wortman or any pictures you might have can call him to talk. And he particularly wants that picture of the Paddock Lounge.
"They can call me," he said. "I'm usually around. I'm retired."
His number is 288-5185.
Have a column idea? Call Wally at 239-2506 or 800-642-3878; or email: firstname.lastname@example.org