Black Dogs: The Possibly True Story of Classic Rock's Greatest Robbery


In July 1973, Led Zeppelin played three sold-out shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Before the final performance, $203,000 of the band’s money went missing from a safe deposit box at the Drake Hotel in what was called the single highest deposit box theft in the city’s history. The money was never recovered. Black Dogs might be the story behind the greatest rock ’n’ roll heist of all time.

the last thing nineteen-year-old Patrick Sullivan needed was a new scam. Just ...

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Black Dogs: The Possibly True Story of Classic Rock's Greatest Robbery

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In July 1973, Led Zeppelin played three sold-out shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Before the final performance, $203,000 of the band’s money went missing from a safe deposit box at the Drake Hotel in what was called the single highest deposit box theft in the city’s history. The money was never recovered. Black Dogs might be the story behind the greatest rock ’n’ roll heist of all time.

the last thing nineteen-year-old Patrick Sullivan needed was a new scam. Just months earlier, he had left a trail of broken friendships and new enemies in Baltimore for a fresh start in New York City after a botched robbery attempt landed one of his best friends in jail. But when he spies a briefcase full of cash backstage at a Led Zeppelin concert, Patrick makes plans for one last crazy mission–one that he hopes will redeem him in the eyes of everyone he left behind.

To pull it off, Patrick will have to return to his hometown to round up his crew: Alex, the one who did time for Patrick’s last crime; Frenchy, the neurotic musician who still lives with Mom; and dim-witted but endearing Keith, the greasy-haired loner who excels at installing car stereos and then uninstalling them, all in the same day.

When the unlikely team’s plan goes horribly wrong, the boys find themselves mixed up with Backwoods Billy, the psychotic leader of the Holy Ghosts Christian motorcycle gang. They need some help, and they find it in some unlikely places: by crossing paths and making deals with a pill-popping DA, a safe-cracking funk band called the New York Giants, and the Maryland chapter of the Misty Mountain Hoppers Led Zeppelin Fan Club. Sporting a rare 1958 Les Paul guitar and a complicated plan that could either go wonderfully right or horribly wrong, the guys, fueled by beer and egos, make a desperate attempt at robbing the world’s coolest rock band–to hilarious result.

Black Dogs brings to life one of the infamously unsolved rock ’n’ roll mysteries and introduces us to a lovable bunch of knuckleheads who may have just pulled off the greatest heist in rock ’n’ roll history.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Rock 'n' roll fans will best appreciate Buhrmester's debut, an average crime novel based on a real-life robbery-the theft in 1973 of $203,000 from a safe-deposit box in New York City's Drake Hotel containing Led Zeppelin's earnings from a recent concert series. The subtitle is a bit of a tease, as it becomes clear how unlikely a bunch of losers could plan to rip off a popular band and manage to do so by dumb luck. Patrick Sullivan, a 19-year-old scam artist who specializes in break-ins, returns home to Baltimore to round up a crew hoping to make a big score by stealing Led Zeppelin's proceeds. The bulk of the book recounts their misadventures, complete with run-ins with the Holy Ghosts, a Christian motorcycle gang. The breezy writing will carry some along, but many will wonder if the plot might've been better served if Buhrmester, the current editor of Inked, hadn't relied on a factual foundation. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Almost Famous meets Reservoir Dogs in Inked editor Buhrmester's debut novel about a quartet of wannabe young criminals who probably should've stayed in school. Here's the true story: In 1973, after three sold-out performances at Madison Square Garden, Led Zeppelin had the money for their shows-$203,000-ripped off from a safe-deposit box at the Drake Hotel. Neither the perps nor the money were ever found, and because of the lost revenue, the release of Zep's concert movie The Song Remains the Same was delayed for three years. Here's the fake, but highly entertaining resolution from Buhrmester: Nineteen-year-old Baltimorean-turned-New Yorker Patrick Sullivan and his merry band of rock dorks pulled off the heist. Patrick's Baltimore posse, such as it is, will never be mistaken for the Gambino Family. Hapless Alex should probably find another best pal, considering how Patrick has betrayed him. Smart-ass Frenchy lives for his guitar and little else. And Keith is the dimmest bulb in a chandelier that was pretty dim to start with. Eventually, the boys get mixed up with more musicians-cum-criminals, the whack-job leader of a motorcycle gang called the Holy Ghost Christians and some fanatical Zep followers, all of which leads to a denouement that would bring a smile to Jimmy Page's face. Buhrmester demonstrates an affection for rock 'n' roll's attendant trappings-the camaraderie, the excesses, the lust for both financial success and artistic fulfillment-but never forgets that without the music, the whole thing means nothing. The plot is nothing to write home about, but what's important here are the quirky characters, the snarky Elmore-Leonard-meets-Lester-Bangs attitude, the goofball atmosphereand, most vitally, a heartfelt affection for all that rocks. Casual music fans will enjoy the heck out of this hilarious and gritty tale; rock fanatics will adore it. Agent: James Fitzgerald/James Fitzgerald Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307451811
  • Publisher: Crown/Archetype
  • Publication date: 4/14/2009
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 7.98 (w) x 5.18 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Meet the Author

Former editor at Playboy, current editor of Inked, JASON BUHRMESTER has been published in Maxim, Spin, Wired, the Village Voice, and other publications. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, where he is working on his second novel and listening to Black Sabbath.
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Read an Excerpt


baltimore, maryland

JULY 20, 1973

the albums flipped forward into my hand.


Volume 4

Master of Reality

And of course Black Sabbath, the album that started it all for the greatest band in the world: Black Sabbath.

I pulled a copy of each one, stuffed them under my arm and looked around the Record Barn. I’d been coming here since I was a kid. In high school I use to sneak into the kitchen in the middle of the night to make a lunch just so I could pocket my lunch money. By the end of the week I had enough for a few singles.

Not much had changed at the Barn in the months since I had split town. Faded posters covered the grimy front windows, keeping the store dim even in the middle of the afternoon. The stench of pot still hid behind a thin wall of incense, and boxes of T-shirts and albums littered the narrow aisles like always. The owner, Bob, a frizzy-haired David Crosby look-alike, wandered around squeezing more albums into cluttered bins. He stopped in the aisle and stared at me.

“Aren’t you supposed to be in school?” he growled.

“I graduated two years ago, Bob,” I told him without looking up from the row of records I flipped through.

“Oh,” he grunted. “Well, do you need anything?”

He didn’t really sound interested in helping me.

“Nah. Just waiting for Frenchy . . . uh . . . Pete.”

A few minutes later Frenchy stumbled from the back room. His arms waved wildly around his head and shaggy brown hair swirled around his face. He flung a pile of records on the counter and wiped his face with the front of his Flamin’ Groovies T-shirt.

“What the hell’s wrong with you, Frenchy?”

“I got caught in a spiderweb in the basement,” he said. He patted down his hair then looked up at me. “And don’t call me that.”

We’d been calling him Frenchy since a night he passed out drunk in the backseat of my car talking gibberish that we decided sounded like French. After I left town he convinced everyone to call him Pete again. It was going to take some getting used to.

“So did Alex actually get out today?” I asked.

“Yeah. His mom’s having a party for him tonight.”

Frenchy sighed heavily.

“You sure he wants to see you?”

“Probably not,” I answered.

Bob disappeared into the back room. I followed Frenchy while he walked through the store. Now and then he stopped to file a record into a bin.

“Man, I shouldn’t have told you he was getting out,” Frenchy moaned. He moaned a lot.

“I just need to talk to him.”

“He didn’t answer any of your letters. Why would he talk to you now?”

“I know Alex better than he knows himself.”

“You drove all the way down from New York City just to talk to him?”

“Something like that.”

Bob returned from the back room with a set of BMW keys in his hand and a briefcase with a Grateful Dead sticker on the side. Something about an old hippie with a BMW and a briefcase made me smile.

“Be sure to lock up, Pete.”

“Okay, Bob. See you tomorrow,” Frenchy said as the front door rattled closed.

Music played in the store. Something loud and noisy. I liked it.

“Who’s this?” I asked.

“The Stooges. They’re from Detroit.”

“I dig it.”

“Really? You actually like something other than Black Sabbath?”

“Just need something to fill the time until their next album.”

“Whatever.” Frenchy laughed.

“How’s your band going?” I asked.

“Which one?”

When he wasn’t working at the Record Barn, Frenchy combined his musical talents and marginal high school acting experience into a couple of cover bands that played bars and private events. Want the Rolling Stones to rock your wedding reception? Frenchy can do a hell of a Mick Jagger. Need Neil Diamond at your office holiday party? Frenchy’s version of “Sweet Caroline” could get the accounting department on their feet. He could imitate anyone.

Frenchy finished restocking the bins then locked the front door. The cash register chimed as he stabbed at buttons until the drawer shot open. Frenchy grabbed the tray of cash and headed toward the back office. I followed him until he stopped, blocking the doorway.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

“I don’t know.” I shrugged. “Just following you.”

“No way. Wait out here.”

“What’s the big deal? You’re just counting out the cash register. I can hang out for that.”

“Not a chance, dude. That’s my rule. You, Alex and Keith aren’t coming near the cash or the safe or the back room. I don’t even want you guys near the fucking mop closet. Just wait out there.”

I sat on the counter, started to read an issue of Rolling Stone, got bored and read Creem instead. A flier on bright yellow paper hung on the side of the counter.




I tore it down, folded it up then slipped it into my pocket. A switch flipped from the back room and the lights shut off. Frenchy reappeared and stood in the middle of the store going over everything in his head to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything. He double-checked the back door then the tiny safe in the office. Then he checked the back door again.

“We need to pick Keith up from work,” Frenchy said, turning off the rest of the lights in the store.

“Is he still working at Mancini’s?” “Yeah. Installing car stereos.”

“And then uninstalling them in the middle of the night?”

“Of course.”

Frenchy fished for his keys then stopped at the front door and turned around.

“Don’t you already own those?” he asked, pointing to the stack of Sabbath albums under my arm.

“Wore them out. I need new copies.”

“You gonna pay for ’em?”

“What do you think?”

Frenchy sighed and opened the door. We walked together across the empty parking lot as the sun set behind the Record Barn and Baltimore looked every bit as small as it did when I’d left.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2009

    Eh, okay I guess.

    I'm a fan of Zeppelin. When I saw this book, I thought it looked interesting. I read a sample, and figured why not. Turns out there could've been just a little more of the band than there was. The main character, Patrick, didn't even like Zeppelin. I think it would've been more interesting if he was a fan.

    The characters were pretty much the same, with an occasional appearance by some offbeat additions, like a funk band or a motorcycle gang. But there wasn't even a lot of those appearances. So it was all like "Hey, I'm stoned, wanna go rob Zeppelin?" "Sure, right after I'm done drinking an entire keg." Believe it or not, that get's a little boring.

    There were some humorous parts, usually by Danny, Alex's uncle. He tags along with a bunch of the gang's robberies and such, usually screwing them up. The whole story really was the effect of one of Danny's screw-ups. He get's a little much at some times, and that gets annoying.

    Overall, I guess it was an OK book. There were a lot of areas that needed working on, especially the characters, but it's worth a shot.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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