Archived entries for Pineapple Primary

Now that the Pineapple Primary is back from the dead, we’re working on figuring out the proper art style to go with.

Initial discussions have lead us to a potential mix of clean, linear figures (borrowing heavily from Charles Gibson) on top of photo-sourced, then graphically rendered (think big, black lines) backgrounds.

We’re even planning on a trip to Chicago to grab source images at some point in the future.

But, before we do any of that, we’ve got to do a few test pages to see if this’ll be worthwhile or a complete disaster. I wrote two single page panel breakdowns to use as tests.

And here they are. ONE and TWO. Single acts of crime, completely devoid of context.


Man runs toward the camera down a darkened street. His trench coat flows out from him like a cape. He is clutching a duffle bag in his hand. Cash flies out of the bag, but he doesn’t notice – or care.

He rounds a corner into an alleyway, checking over his shoulder to see if he’s been followed. His eyes are narrowed, and suspicious, the rest of his face hidden by the up-turned collar of his coat.

Waiting in the alley for him is a beautiful woman, wearing an expensive dress, a fur coat and impractically high heels.

Close in on them as they embrace in a kiss.

Move in tighter as his eyes open wide in pain. She doesn’t react.

He falls backwards as we see the small pistol in her hand. Her rigidness in star contrast to his crumpling body.

His dead eyes stare up at us from the ground as she bends down to pick up the bag of money. Try to work her high heels into this shot.

Shot from behind as she hoists the bag over her shoulder and walks away. His extended hand can still be seen at the bottom of the frame.


Establishing shot of a town square. There are two groups of people. The one into foreground, hiding behind a car, is a group of three criminals. One of them is badly hurt. Hiding behind the elements in the background are the other group – the police.

Tighten in on the criminals behind the car. The one left is peering over the hood of the car, trying to get an idea of what they are up against. The one in the middle is splayed out, arms and legs limp, head hanging loosely to one side. There is a massive, wet stain of blood on his chest. The blood is streaked on the car behind him. The criminal on the right is looking at the bleeding man with concern, his hand on the man’s shoulder.

One of the criminals peaks his head out over the top of the hood of the car he’s crouched behind.

We see the array of guns pointed at him from across the town square. This doesn’t look good.

Pull back a bit as he slumps back down, gun to his forehead, like he’s praying.

The man on the left looks to the other two men. The man on the right is closing the eyes of the man in the middle with a bloody hand.

Downward shot of a the man on the left as he puts his gun to his temple and looks up into the trees.

Zoom out, show the tree and the sky A flock of birds fly out of the tree, startled by a gun shot.

A few years ago I started writing something called THE PINEAPPLE PRIMARY. It was going to be a one and done graphic novella about the most violent election in United States history. There was an artist lined up, my research was done, and I was making great progress. I sent the first 18 pages off to the artist and wrapped up the rest of the book in a week.

It was about this time the artist disappeared into some kind of alternate dimension I’m going to call “New York Theatre”. I think I’ve mentioned my trouble keeping artists. They mainly get eaten by wild boars and I have to shelve whatever project I was working on. *cough* *cough*

But, I guess the stars weren’t right because a dying hard drive took the first complete draft along with it. The sad part is I didn’t even realize it for close to 6 months because I didn’t think about the project. Then, for whatever reason, I went looking for it and realized that it was literally the only thing I didn’t have backed up. Luckily, I had the first 18 pages I’d sent out, plus my script notes for the whole thing, which were essentially all of the words, but without the paneling. I shrugged, left it there and figured that if I ever needed it, I could come back and rewrite it.

Well, that moment of need came around about two weeks ago. I was talking to an artist friend of mine, asked him if he wanted to draw something, he said sure, and I said I’ll send you a script on Tuesday. The girlfriend went with some friends down to NOLA, and I went to work (re)finishing THE PINEAPPLE PRIMARY.

At this point, the script is in what I’m referring to as a “production draft” state. I haven’t gone through with a fine toothed comb and picked out all the typos and confused grammatical bits. I haven’t even gone through and checked my pages to see which is a facing page and which isn’t. The bottom line is that I’ve got something that is good enough for the artist to start working from, but not the finished product.

Here’s where you come in, Internet. A common intermediary step in writing is the workshop. I give something to you, you tell me what you thought of it. The more feedback I get, the better I can edit.

And there’s absolutely no one I trust more than the fervid, raving mass that is the Internet superconsciousness. Which really says a lot about me, doesn’t it?

So, here is the production draft of THE PINEAPPLE PRIMARY, in .rtf form.

Read it, and let me know what you think. You can post your thoughts in the comments, or you can email me at brainreleasevalve [at] gmail [dot] com.

Thanks in advance to anyone who reads it.

I keep trying to get my head into the right place, but I don’t think I have it tonight. Too tired, too hung over, too distracted by other shit. I’m working on the last third of the Pineapple Primary, specifically the introduction of James Belcastro and the primary day itself.

It’s funny, Belcastro is some one that I had no inkling about until I started doing research for this project. He was called the King of the Bombers, and he is one of the worst murderers in American history. Over 100 deaths are attributed to his actions for the Chicago Outfit, and the number is probably much higher in reality.

Belcastro was pure evil. He didn’t care who his targets were; men, women, children, the infirm and the aged, they were all fair targets for him. He once chased down an African American lawyer that had tried to run for office in one of the Chicago wards. He forced the man’s car off the road and shot him to death on the sidewalk of a busy street. Seven men went up in front of the judge for that crime. Not a single witness came forward. Belcastro walked away clean, probably without even a blemish on his conscious.

The man was a monster that we have all but forgotten about. The people and events surrounding the Pineapple Primary are filled with stories like this. These are stories that the twenty-four hour cable news stations would love to be able to talk about. People like Big Bill Thompson and Diamond Joe would be  forever fixed into the consciousness of the viewing audience. The Bootleg Battle of the Marne would be a week long special for Fox News. But, because of the times, because of the context of these events and the violent time and place they happened in, they barely warrant a side bar note in a college history book.

Another thing I’m learning is that even thought the events of the Pineapple Primary aren’t even a century old, any information I can find is cloudy at best. The primary sources are locked away in the vaults of Chicago’s public library where they are yellowing with rot and age. Not that they could really be trusted in the first place. I’ve read a few of the primary sources for the death of McSwiggin, and their information is inconsistent and most likely wrong. One paper will say he died with 7 men, another will say 3. One paper will say he died on the spot outside the Pony Inn, another will say he died in a parlor of one of his associates. The print markets back in the 20s were cutthroat and a reporter might spice up a few details of an article for another thousand papers sold.

The secondary sources are even worse. I’ve found references to the Pineapple Primary placing the events in 1927 instead of 1928, to Capone bombing the mayor’s supporters (of which he was one), and so on and so forth. In most cases when the author couldn’t be bothered to do proper research, they just glazed over the missing information with a few obtuse lines and their own assumptions.

The further I dig with my research the more I have to rewrite. I only found out the other day that Thompson, the mayor of Chicago when all of this went down, had presidential aspirations and effectively stopped showing up to work after his candidates lost the general election following the Pineapple Primary. I had to restructure the ending of the book because of this. All of the changes I have to made because of new information have made the story better and helped to ground the surreality of what was going on in Chicago.

I know that I’m going to get stuff wrong, and that bothers me, but there is a point where I just have to suck it up and press on with the story and hope that the information I have is good enough for the job I need it to do. (Primarily: keeping me from looking like a total moron.)

I don’t know if it was pure naivety on my part to think that there would be better information on something so recent. But, I didn’t think that it would be this bad. As the world moves more toward digital information over print information, I’m horrified to think of the research inaccuracies that a generation raised on Wikipedia will produce.

Here’s a stultifying thought for you – with all the research that I’ve done about this specific period in Chicago history, I am probably now one of the foremost experts on the Pineapple Primary. Yeah. I’m not even kidding. One of the most bizarre moments in American history and some half drunk amateur comic book writer in Memphis knows more than people who are writing books on this stuff.


Still can’t get this going. My brain feels like it is filled with tar tonight.

The hell with it.

I’ll be back tomorrow.

Apparently, Time Magazine keeps a pretty healthy online archive of their past articles. Going as far back as the 20s. Which is perfect for me because they have an article on the Pineapple Primary called “Go to Hell.”

A few of the choice bits:

Meanwhile, Chief of Police Michael Hughes reported: “It is almost impossible to trace bombers. There are 50 places in the city where dynamite can be purchased just as a person buys a package of cigarets.”

No man in Chicago counts himself a politician of any repute until he has been pineappled or at least threatened.

State’s Attorney Crowe: “Bombings have become a recognized method of creating public sympathy and increasing the flow of revenues for reform or political purposes.”

Concerning crime, the fat Mayor said, as he relaxed in bedroom slippers and short-sleeved, open-necked sport shirt in his hotel suite: “Sure, we have crime here. We always will have crime. Chicago is just like any other big city. You can get a man’s arm broken for so much, a leg for so much, or beaten up for so much. Just like New York or any other big city—excepting we print our crime here and they don’t.”

The last paragraph is one that I’ll leave for you all to go and read yourself, it is classic. The full article is here.

And if you notice the date, this was printed the day before the Pineapple Primary.

Cicero, Illinois. September 20th, 1926. Lunchtime.

The Hawthorne Hotel was Capone’s original stronghold in Cicero, a town just outside of Chicago proper. He had carved out Cicero as his own corner of the world when he moved from New York to Chicago in the early 1920s. This was his safe place, no one would dare touch him here.

But Capone underestimated the bloodlust of his rival Earl “Hymie” Weiss, the man who’s boss and beloved friend Capone had ordered killed two years earlier. Weiss and Capone were a new kind of gangster. Their former mentors were men who believed in negotiation and that blood was bad for business. The new generation was violent, vengeful and braggadocios. And Weiss was about to explain to Capone exactly what it that meant.

The people in the Hawthorne Hotel heard it before they saw it. People in Chicago had grown recognize to that rapid staccato rhythm. In the distance it sounded like the click-clack of a giant typewriter. The restaurant grew quiet as the noise grew louder. Then the dark sedan slid into view, a Thompson machine gun sticking out through the parted curtains.

The patrons dove for cover. The gangsters went for their guns. Capone’s bodyguard, sensing that something wasn’t right, pushed Scarface to the ground and wouldn’t let him up. He probably saved Capone’s life right then.

The first car was just a distraction. There wasn’t a single real bullet in that clip, every round was a blank. It was a trap to draw out Capone’s gunmen. To make them easy targets for the next wave.

A caravan of 10 cars rolled down the street as the lead car sped off. 10 dark sedans rolling down 22nd Avenue in the middle of the day. 10 dark sedans with 5 gunmen in each car. Each gunman holding a Thompson Gun with a 100 round clip. Over the next 10 minutes all 5000 of those bullets would smash into the lobby of the Hawthorne Hotel, in what is still unmatched as the most violent gang skirmish in US history.

Weiss’ attack ended with a triple blast of the horn from the lead car. The police were on their way, but it didn’t matter. These men were untouchable by the local police. The caravan lined back up, and calmly drove back inside the Chicago city limits.

Inside the decimated hotel, the dust began to settle. Not one of those 5000 bullets found a fatal home. There were a few close calls, but no one was dead or even severely injured. Capone himself was enraged, but unhurt. The attack had been for nothing.

All of this happened, not even 100 years ago.

In the third largest city in the country.

And no one was ever arrested or brought to trial.

This is America. This is the Pineapple Primary.


William H McSwiggin

By Christian Schmitt

William H McSwiggin

The Hanging Prosecutor, cut down by Capone’s gun men outside of a speakeasy in Cicero, New York.

Look at him. Greased back hair. Double chin. Round, thick-rimmed glasses. Cheap suit.

This is perfect.

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