"Mad Dog Killer"

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Tue Jun 12 14:25:10 UTC 2001

Jim Landau notes:
> In a message dated 06/11/2001 5:57:48 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
> Bapopik at AOL.COM writes: One poster on a newsgroup insists that the
> term ["Mad Dog Killer"] came from the military.
> Actually, "Mad dog killer" is redundant, since a rabid dog inflicts
> bites which may lead to a lethal case of rabies.

First, I think that the image of a "mad dog killer" is of one who kills
indiscriminatingly, as a rabid dogs bites.

Second, the term dates at least to the very early 1930s, since it was
the common name in the newspapers for Vince Coll: Mad Dog Coll.  He was
a New York bootlegger who undertook an ill-advised gang war against
Dutch Schultz and was murdered in 1932, at the age of 23.  Those
interested in learning more may consult Breandan Delap's "Mad Dog
Coll", Cork: Mercier Press, 1999.  Coll was born in Ireland, and in an
Irish-speaking district, at that.  Mr. Delap interviews a few people
whose grandfather might have shared a sandbox with Coll and gives their
responses in Irish, then in English translation.  The general tenor of
their remarks is that Vince was a good boy while he was in Ireland and
never shot anyone, but when he went to America he must have fallen in
with bad company.  Vince's family left Ireland when he was about 9
months old.  Delap also very justly criticizes the juvenile justice
system of the state of NY, as being unable to deal with a "sensitive"
nature like Vince's.  Anyone who reads this book may no doubt
truthfully claim to be the first kid on their block to do so, unless
they live on Washington Place, between Greene st. and Mercer.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African
Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998.

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