The Washington Post
Dillinger's Wild Ride: The Year That Made America's Public Enemy Number Oneby Elliott J. Gorn
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 misdeedsspiced with accounts of his swashbuckling bravado and cool daringprovided an America worn down by the Great Depression with a salacious mix
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 misdeedsspiced with accounts of his swashbuckling bravado and cool daringprovided an America worn down by the Great Depression with a salacious mix 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 menpolice, FBI agents, gangsters, and civilianslost 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, and even today, Dillinger is the subject of pulp literature, serious poetry and fiction, and films, including a new movie starring Johnny Depp. What is the power of his story? Why has it lingered so long? Who was John Dillinger? Gorn illuminates the significance of Dillinger's tremendous fame and the endurance of his legacy, arguing that he represented an American fascination with primitive freedom against social convention. Dillinger's story has much to tell us about our enduring fascination with outlaws, crime and violence, about the complexity of our transition from rural to urban life, and about the transformation of America during the Great Depression.
Dillinger's Wild Ride is a compulsively readable story with an unforgettable protagonist.
The Washington Post
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 grocer's 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 he'd 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)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Is this a good time for another Dillinger book? The author thinks so, and readers will too by the end of the book. Gorn (history & American studies, Brown Univ.; The Manly Art) has produced an excellent account-a fast-paced romp that's hard to put down-of the short life and times of the outlaw John Dillinger. Covering not just Dillinger's final year, which was full of bank robberies, jailbreaks, and covert visits home, the author paints a picture of the 1930s America that Dillinger experienced. Mostly throughout the Midwest, Dillinger managed to elude authorities-even breaking out of jail by brandishing a wooden gun. The federal agency that became the FBI made his capture their top priority. With economic parallels to today, it is not hard to understand why the public hero-worshipped Dillinger. He was seen as a kind of Robin Hood-he robbed the banks that had lost the life savings of so many. With Johnny Depp playing Dillinger in a summer 2009 movie, this should prove a popular book. Recommended for general readers and crime aficionados; history buffs will appreciate the detailed notes.
Karen Sandlin Silverman
"We know our crooks. We don't just know them, we love them: Billie the Kid, Jesse James, Bonnie and Clyde, Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, not to mention the fictional ones, most notably Vito and Sonny Corleone.... Long after their deaths they live on in our mythology as what Elliott J. Gorn calls 'part of America's deepest hero myths'... Gorn...tries hard to separate fact from myth, and he makes plausible arguments for why Dillinger captured the popular imagination."Washington Post
"Gripping tale well told of the man and his times and why we still care."American History magazine
"A solid, unromanticized account of the last year in the short life of famed bank robber John Dillinger."Publishers Weekly
"A solid study of an outlaw and his image."Kirkus Reviews
"Those with a particular interest in true crime or biographies will find Gorns no-frills approach refreshing."ForeWord Magazine
"At last: Not only a carefully researched account of the outlaw John Dillinger, but remarkably good insight into the times that made him a 'social bandit' of the Depression period."William J. Helmer, author of Dillinger: The Untold Story and The Complete Public Enemy Almanac
"Gorn's book is a real treasure. It is perhaps the most concise, accurate, and objective retelling of Dillinger's life and crimes I have yet seen, and I love the incredible analysis along the way of Dillinger's developing legend and the contributing misrepresentations of the contemporary media. Brought full circle at the end, of course, with an examination of Dillinger's remarkable afterlife as a continuing American icon."Rick Mattix, author of The Complete Public Enemy Almanac and editor of On the Spot Journal
"Gripping tale well told of the man and his times-and why we still care." American History
- Oxford University Press, USA
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Meet the Author
Elliott J. Gorn is Professor of History and American Studies at Brown University. He is the author of The Manly Art: Bare-Knuckle Prize Fighting in America and Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America, among other books.
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