How wicked is the city of Mobile? Author Brendan Kirby aims to put at least some of it into perspective in his just-released book, “Wicked Mobile.”
If Kirby’s name is familiar, it’s because he spent about 15 years covering news at the Press-Register before leaving this summer to become a political reporter for commentator Laura Ingram’s website LifeZette. One of Kirby’s main beats for the P-R was court reporting and being around all that evil day to day seems to have pushed his interests toward documenting a bit of the Azalea City’s less beautiful moments.
Kirby’s 142-page book details some of the more colorful events that shaped the city, starting with the battle of wills between two men who wanted to be governor — Antoine Laumet de la Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville. One, of course, ended up with his name gracing the city’s central square while the other’s name is only seen on vehicles cruising the Mobile’s bumpy streets. The rivalry ended with Cadillac getting tossed in the Bastille and Bienville helping to found New Orleans.
Kirby writes on 10 different historical subjects, including the “Massacre at Fort Mims,” “The Copeland Gang and the Burning of Mobile,” “’Pig Iron’ Kelley, Gustavus Horton and the Wickedness of Mobile During Reconstruction” and “The Battle House Honor Killing.”
“This is the story of rogues and rapscallions, the corrupt politicians and vicious murderers, the unspeakable events and unthinkable people who have crawled through history over Mobile, Alabama’s three centuries,” Kirby writes in the book’s preface. “I have tried to present the events in as much of a narrative form as possible while remaining faithful to the actual events.”
Much of the information gathered for the book came from digging through archives, as well as interviewing local historians.
Perhaps one of the more controversial chapters of Kirby’s book might center on whether Joe Cain really was the one to bring Mardi Gras back to Mobile and when it happened. Another entitled “’Boardwalk Empire’ of the South” details the city’s reaction to Prohibition and examines those who made their fortunes continuing to feed Mobilians’ legendary thirst for alcohol.
“Wicked Mobile” was published by Arcadia Publishing and History Press and is set to be formally released Nov. 9.