Buster Wortman died 45 years ago this month, but he can still sell books.
Bill Nunes’ latest book, The Frank “Buster” Wortman Story, is the second best-selling book at the Fairview Heights Barnes & Noble, Nunnes said. Only J.K. Rowling has the stature to outsell Wortman in the Metro East, it seems.
Perhaps, though, it is Nunes who has the local star power. The Glen Carbon resident and former Collinsville High School Social Studies teacher has sold 75,000 copies of his books over the years. Nunes has published 20 books since he retired from teaching.
The inspiration for Nunes latest book was a phone call from Wortman’s son, who was trying to sell his dad’s bedroom set from the famous moat house off Lebanon O’Fallon Road in Collinsville. Nunes bought the furniture, which he has installed in his own bedroom, and now has one of his top selling books.
Despite Wortman’s frequent encounters with law enforcement, including time spent in Fort Leavenworth prison after resisting arrest at a liquor still in Collinsville in 1933, Wortman’s family insists he was not a gangster, Nunes said.
“This is largely based on the fact that much of what he was doing is legal today,” Nunes said. “They consider him a business man.”
Collinsville was home to Wortman at both the moat house and an earlier house at what is now 2 N. Crown Drive. He was drawn to town by his love of nearby Fairmount Park Racetrack and the town’s location above the flood plain in East St. Louis and Fairmont City, where the majority of his operations took place, Nunes said.
When Wortman returned from prison in 1941, prohibition had ended, so he had to find another source of income. The numbers racket – a lottery-like operation – and distribution of pinball machines became two of his most lucrative ventures. Wortman largely controlled the Metro East underground until his death in 1968 of cirrhosis.
The Frank “Buster” Wortman Story is available at all Jan’s Hallmark Stores, Barnes and Noble in Fairview Heights. Autographed copies are at Amazon.com. Books can also be bought directly from Nunes. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.