This is a story I've told many times before about a mystery writer I knew in his mature years. His name was Al Nussbaum and when he was young he was a bank robber who made the Top 10 on the FBI's Most Wanted list.
When he was hiding out, Al decided the best way to do it was pretend to be a writer because that way he had an excuse for seldom leaving his rented room. He bought a sports coat with elbow patches and a pipe because he thought that made him look like a writer. He also bought a typewriter, a tape recorder and a dozen or more paperback books.
Al made a recording while banging away on the typewriter. Then he played it all day so the landlady would think he was working while he actually was reading the books. One was about bank robbers and it was so realistic he wrote to the writer, Dan J. Marlowe, in care of the publisher. Marlowe wrote back and after a few exchanges of letters encouraged Al to do some writing himself.
Then Al was arrested and sent to Leavenworth and later Alcatraz. He kept on writing in both places and Marlowe would critique it and tell him how to improve. This kept up for years and then Al was released, thanks to some hard work by Marlowe and another mystery writer, Joe Gores.
One of the conditions of his parole was living with Marlowe. Soon after he moved in, Marlowe suffered a stroke that completely wiped out his memory. He couldn't recall ever having written a book or short story. Little by little, Al helped him construct a new memory to replace the one that was gone. In time he was able to begin writing again.
I was a speaker at a mystery convention and so was Al. When he finished his talk and was answering questions, someone asked if he enjoyed writing."It's OK," he said, "but what I'd really like to be doing is robbing banks."

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Comment by Dick Stodghill on May 14, 2008 at 6:27am
If you're right, Dana, he sure did a great job of fooling the FBI. His downfall was trying to slip into Buffalo undetected for his father's funeral. Even the FBI boys were expecting that. I was contacted by his daughter a few months ago. She was hoping to learn more about the father she barely knew.
Comment by Dana King on May 14, 2008 at 1:52am
Are you sure Al wasn't always a writer, and didn't want to cop to it? Maybe he only claimed to be a bank robber to spare his family the shame. (I know what you're thinking, and I say it only shows the depth of his devotion to the ruse that he would actually do time to keep it alive.)

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