Maybe we just like to see other people get in trouble; we relish being privy to the looks on others’ faces when they get busted. Does this make us small, wicked people steering pathetic lives? Maybe. Probably. But the appeal is undeniable—the news and entertainment canon is filled with the old standard: the mug shot. Who doesn’t love a good mug shot? The Las Vegas Sun ran a bunch of mugs of women arrested for prostitution at the Rio last month; the Review-Journal ran 26 mug shots of “Vegas’ Most Prolific Prostitutes” in February. Of course this probably has as much to do with our equally honorable fascination with prostitutes as it does with mug shots.
Nonetheless, a publisher from Clearwater, Florida, has entered the Vegas market with a needle-to-vein take on the delicious little indulgence of mug-shottery: Local MugShots, a 12-page newspaper sold for $1 at mini-marts. For a buck, you get to go eye-to-eye with Nevada’s criminals, or alleged criminals—some even in color. “100s of LOCAL mugshots,” says the front page, “recent arrests, most wanted, sex offenders, drugs, DUI, violent crimes, missing children ... and more!” A freaking candy shop of bad-people photos! With “Really bad girls, Page 9” and “Includes registered SEX OFFENDERS in your neighborhood,” who could pass this up?
Hopefully, says Max Cannon, the publisher, very few. Cannon started the paper, which now employs five people and is distributed in 13 states, eight years ago in Nashville. He was publishing a “waiting-room freebie” called Profiles when he decided on a whim to slap two or three mug shots on the front and see if it would get more pick-up. Whammo, a new business was born. “I think it’s just a general interest regarding crime,” he says with a deep Southern drawl on the phone from Florida. “Heck, you never can tell who you might see.”
The paper is new to Nevada, published every two weeks, and assembled “in relationship” with Nevada law-enforcement officials. Often, Cannon says, law enforcement passes along the photos, which are considered public record, in order to publicize wanted-criminal photos. The paper notes that “the names listed here have been released in accordance with the Nevada Code Annotated Public Record and Information disclosure statutes,” and has mugs of people accused of murder, embezzlement, burglary, battery and arson. Additionally, it features a couple of pages of national most-wanted photos, as well as some helpful historical blurbs on John Wayne Gacy and Marie Antoinette. Call it a public service.
Cannon charges a fee for distribution, then the distributors collect on the $1 fee and ads. Does he expect Las Vegas, Nevada, adopted home to a zillion fugitives, to have great pick-up sales? “There’s great reception there, yes. But Alabama has been a really good state for us.”
Has he ever been threatened by unhappy mug-shot models (especially Marie Antoinette)? “I’ve a had a couple of threats, sure,” he says, “but lo and behold, they get over it.”