Dime Novel Desperados – A Local History Podcast Book Review

The Forgottonia Project is pleased to announce our local history podcast book review series. Our first book study will feature an analysis of Dr. John Hallwas’s 2011 book “Dime Novel Desperados: The Notorious Maxwell Brothers.”

Dr. Hallwas visited our class at Cuba High School to discuss his book Dime Novel Desperados


Dime Novel Desperados is a TRUE-CRIME narrative that “recovers the long-forgotten story of Ed and Lon Maxwell, the outlaw brothers from Illinois who once rivaled Jesse and Frank James in national notoriety.” Ed & Lon grew up right here in Forgottonia (Fulton & McDonough Counties) and their story contains many lessons for us today. An essential argument Dr. Hallwas makes is that we should reimagine how we think about the Wild West, and include stories from communities like Forgottonia positioned just east of the Mississippi.

This series is done in partnership with CHS students and features comments from Dr. Hallwas as well as music from Forgottonia maestro Chris Vallillo. Each episode will review a chapter of the book, a primary source analysis, and a featurette of a famous Hollywood western. After their crime spree, the Maxwell mythology was advanced through Dime Novels which in turn influenced the iconic Hollywood western film industry. Studying various western films will offer further insight into the story of the Maxwells.

Visit the Amazon book page to discover more about the book and how to get your own copy.


Dr. John Hallwas is western IL’s most prolific author, known for writing over 30 books about IL & the Midwest, as well as dozens of journal & newspaper articles. Dr. Hallwas has won more than 30 awards and even has an annual event named for him at WIU where he attended and taught for 34 years. If you have any interest in the history & culture of these 16 counties in western IL, your search begins and ends with Dr. Hallwas!

Visit John Hallwas’s webpage to learn more about the man and all of his tremendous contributions to elevating forgotten voices throughout history.


Each episode of the series will feature a variety of features including:

  • INTERVIEWS: Dr. John Hallwas, Forgottonia folk musician Chris Vallillo
  • PRIMARY SOURCES: Analysis of newspapers, photos, songs, maps, etc. that were examined by Dr. Hallwas for the construction of each chapter
  • WESTERN FILM ANALYSIS: Each episode contains an overview of a particular Hollywood film. These iconic western films were heavily influenced by dime novel mythology. After the crime spree by Ed & Lon Maxwell that sparked national debate, subjects like the Maxwells were distorted into mostly heroic “longe rangers’ that were valued in the west. Each week we will study a famous Hollywood western and reflect on the role DND may have played in influencing western lore.

Book Overview

Here is an overview of each chapter (and podcast) that will be covered in this series.

Ep 0 – Welcome to the World of the Maxwell Brothers: An Introduction to DND w/author Dr. John Halwas 
#1 – The Maxwell Family Moves West (Chapter 1)
#2 – The Maxwells in Troubled Fulton County (Chapter 2)
#3 – The Maxwells in McDonough County (Chapter 3)
#4 – Law & Order and Prison Life (Chapter 4)
#5 – The Maxwell Brothers Become Outlaws (Chapter 5)
#6 – The Great Escape & Recapture (Chapter 6)
#7 – Prison Time & Justice Issues (Chapter 7)
#8 – Lon’s Struggle to Go Straight (Chapter 8)
#9 – The Wisconsin Desperados (Chapter 9)
#10 – The Gunfight at Durand (Chapter 10)
#11 – The Great Manhunt (Chapter 11)
#12 – Another Gunfight–and the Renewed Manhunt (Chapter 12)
#13 – Ed’s Capture & Lon’s Escape (Chapter 13)
#14 – The Desperado & the Public (Chapter 14)
#15 – The Lynching at Durand (Chapter 15)
#16 – The Lynching Controversy & Durand’s Fate (Chapter 16)
#17 – The Mysterious Fate of Lon Maxwell (Chapter 17)
Epilogue – The Story Life of the Maxwell Brothers

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