Hi Steve,

   Please find below a brief biography (well, the only one I have found) on the writer who, as Armitage Trail, wrote the novel Scarface.

   I wonder if anyone has ever done any research to track down the pseudonymous work mentioned in it. I asked Victor Berch who knows little more — apparently he could not even find him in the census for the years he was alive. (Apparently his brother, also difficult to trace in official records, wrote over 20 episodes for the Addams Family [television show] amongst other work).

   Just wonder if he is worth putting in your blog to see if anyone can add to the bio?


   John Herrington

   Armitage Trail was a pseudonym for the American author Maurice Coons. The son of a theatrical impresario who managed the road tours of the New Orleans Opera Company, and also manufactured furniture and farm silos, Maurice Coons left school at 16 to devote all his time to writing stories. By 17 or 18, he was already selling stories to magazines. By his early twenties he was writing whole issues of various detective-story magazines under a great assortment of various names. And at 28 — after going to New York to write more stories, and from there to Hollywood to write movies — he dropped dead of a heart attack at the downtown Paramount Theatre in Los Angeles.

   At the time of his death, he weighed 315 pounds, had a flowing brown moustache, and wore Barrymore-brim Borsalina hats. He was survived by his brother, humorous writer Hannibal Coons.


   Maurice Coons gathered the elements for Scarface when living in Chicago, where he became acquainted with many local Sicilian gangs. For a couple of years, Coons spent most of his nights prowling Chicago’s gangland with his friend, a lawyer, and spent his days sitting in the sun room of his Oak Park apartment writing Scarface. He never did meet Al Capone, who was the inspiration for his immortal character, though Capone was very much alive when his book was published.

   When Howard Hughes was making plans to produce the movie, Coons wanted Edward G. Robinson to play the leading role because of his resemblance to Capone but being Hollywood, it ended up with Paul [Muni] playing Scarface, a different-looking sort of man altogether. The author did not live to see the picture, but Al Capone did, and screenwriter Ben Hecht had to talk fast to convince his henchmen that Scarface was not based on him. Scarface was also made into a film in 1983, directed by Brian de Palma and starring AI Pacino. Armitage Trail’s only other surviving novel is The Thirteenth Guest ( 1929). Both his novels prefigure the birth of hard-boiled fiction and Black Mask magazine.


   From Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin:

COONS, MAURICE (1902-1930); see pseudonym Armitage Trail.

TRAIL, ARMITAGE; pseudonym of Maurice Coons.

   * * Scarface (Clode, 1930, hc) [Chicago, IL] Long, 1931. Film: United Artists, 1932 (scw: Fred Palsey, W. R. Burnett, John Lee Mahin, Seton I. Miller, Ben Hecht; dir: Howard Hawks). Also: Universal, 1983 (scw: Oliver Stone; dir: Brian De Palma).

   * * The Thirteenth Guest (Whitman, 1929, hc) Film: Monogram, 1932 (scw: Francis Hyland, Arthur Hoerl, Armitage Trail; dir: Albert Ray). Also: Monogram, 1943, as Mystery of the Thirteenth Guest (scw: Charles Marlon, Tim Ryan, Arthur Hoerl; dir: William Beaudine).