From Publishers Weekly
In 1933, smalltime bank robber George "machine gun" Kelly, at the instigation of his wife, kidnapped Oklahoma oil man Charles Urschel and held him for ransom. Atkins's novel is a fictional look at that crime, which pushed Kelly into national attention and into gangster history. From the very beginning, when Kelly's car runs out of gas as he and his accomplice, during their getaway with Urschel, pressed into the floorboards of their car, the listener knows Kelly isn't exactly a criminal mastermind. Atkins chronicles the ensuing misadventures with expert period detail. Keeping up with him at every turn is veteran narrator Dick Hill, who recounts the story of the bungling kidnapper with a homespun delivery that perfectly captures the feel of Depression-era America. Fact and fiction combine with Hill's enjoyable performance to make for an entertaining and educational listen. A Putnam hardcover (Reviews, Feb. 22).
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With the 1933 kidnapping of Oklahoma oil baron Charles Urschel, small-time bank robber George Kelly became “Machine Gun” Kelly. Atkins’ latest historical novel based on a real crime (following Devil’s Garden, 2009, about the Fatty Arbuckle scandal) makes it clear that Kelly’s wife, Kathryn, was the driving force behind his ascendance. George is shown to be an affable mug, a feckless dandy more interested in two-toned shoes and 16-cylinder Cadillacs than crime and machine guns, a crook who was dismissed as a lightweight by other gangsters. Kathryn, however, is a force of nature, a preening, determined-not-to-be-poor-again shopaholic, a celebrity-obsessed Lady Macbeth. But it’s Atkins’ prodigious research that makes this novel a compelling road trip through Depression-era America. He vividly portrays the Dust Bowl, foreclosures, the grinding poverty, gnawing hunger, desperation, and the rage at bankers (most of which resonate in today’s America); and he captures the imminent end of the gangsters’ heyday. Like many fine historical crime novels, Infamous offers a window on society, then and now. --Thomas Gaughan
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