In an era that witnessed the rise of celebrity outlaws like Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger was the most famous and flamboyant of them all. Reports on the man and his misdeeds--spiced with accounts of his swashbuckling bravado and cool daring--provided an America worn down by the Great Depression with a story of sex and violence that proved irresistible.
In Dillinger's Wild Ride, Elliott J. Gorn provides a riveting account of the year between 1933 and 1934, when the Dillinger gang pulled over a dozen bank jobs, and stole hundreds of thousands of dollars. A dozen men--police, FBI agents, gangsters, and civilians--lost their lives in the rampage, and American newspapers breathlessly followed every shooting and jail-break. As Dillinger's wild year unfolded, the tale grew larger and larger in newspapers and newsreels. Even today, Dillinger is the subject of pulp literature, poetry, fiction, and films, including a movie starring Johnny Depp.
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From Publishers Weekly
Gorn (Mother Jones
) presents a solid, unromanticized account of the last year in the short life of famed bank robber John Dillinger. Gorn rejects psychologizing about why Dillinger, the unexceptional if restless grocerÖs son, born in Indianapolis in 1903, turned to a life of crime, arrested first in 1924 for assaulting an elderly store clerk in a botched robbery. After spending nine years—almost a third of his short life—in jail, Dillinger found a Depression-era America far different from the one heÖd left. Less than two months into his parole, Dillinger and the first in a revolving parade of Dillinger gang members robbed the Commercial Bank in Daleville, Ind., making off with $3,500. Between July 1933 and his death just one year later, Dillinger robbed more than 10 banks, killed at least five people (all lawmen) and stole over $300,000, all the while evading capture by local law enforcement and later the FBI. Gorn, who teaches at Brown University, relies on newspaper accounts and government documents (and, thankfully, no reconstructed dialogue) to plot the movements of a criminal who, 75 years after his death, still reverberates in the American consciousness. 30 b&w photos. (June)
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