Jimmy Agnew, Researcher for Top True-Crime Authors, Dies at 67

Before the Internet, Agnew provided research for writers including Nick Pileggi, whose book "Wiseguy" was turned into the Martin Scorsese movie "Goodfellas."

Jimmy Agnew, who provided research to top true-crime authors including Charles Manson prosecutor and author Vincent Bugliosi and Wiseguy writer Nick Pileggi, has died after a battle with pneumonia. He was 67.

Agnew, who died Thursday, was once dubbed “the best crime researcher in America" by legendary Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

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Before the Internet, Agnew relied on other means -- including police sources as well as knowledgeable bartenders and cabbies -- to get his information. He also kept files of news clippings and researched obscure books, magazines and artifacts to provide research for such writers as Bugliosi; Pileggi, whose book was adapted into the Martin Scorsese movie Goodfellas; and Chicago newsman Bill Kurtis.

Pileggi once said that Agnew was “enormously helpful” with Wiseguy and Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas, the latter of which also was turned into a film directed by Scorsese.

“He had terrific police sources who would tell him things they would never tell me because they didn’t know me,” Pileggi said.

Agnew began his career in research while working for Chicago crime writer Jay Robert Nash, who wrote more than 70 books. He later founded a magazine, dubbed Real Crime Book Digest, which reviewed crime books, and worked as a chief researcher at Illinois Police and Sheriffs News, his brother told the Sun-Times.

Agnew, a film buff, also once worked as assistant manager of Chicago’s Clark Theater, which was torn down in 1974. He landed the job thanks in part to a good reference from Roger Ebert.

"In addition to his crime researching, he had a deep knowledge of movies and in my early years on the job sometimes showed me 16mm prints of films he thought I should see,” the film critic said.

Most recently, Agnew worked the night desk of an apartment building.