John Dillinger: The Life and Death of America's First Celebrity Criminal

John Dillinger: The Life and Death of America's First Celebrity Criminal

by Dary Matera
     
 

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John Dillinger and his bank-robbing gang cut a criminal swath never to be equaled, thrilling and terrorizing a nation in the throes of the Great Depression. The charismatic stick-up man became so famous that throngs of excited spectators would block his gang’s route to their getaway cars. When caught, Dillinger staged the most harrowing prison escapes imaginable

Overview

John Dillinger and his bank-robbing gang cut a criminal swath never to be equaled, thrilling and terrorizing a nation in the throes of the Great Depression. The charismatic stick-up man became so famous that throngs of excited spectators would block his gang’s route to their getaway cars. When caught, Dillinger staged the most harrowing prison escapes imaginable—only to be betrayed in the end by the infamous “Lady in Red.”

John Dillinger brings to light new information on this spellbinding desperado, including bank robberies never before reported, detailed plans for major crimes he almost implemented, the revelation that the “Lady in Red” was actually a police plant, and the fact that Dillinger was summarily executed by rogue FBI agents manipulated by East Chicago detectives desperate to cover up widespread police corruption.

Access to thousands of detailed eyewitness accounts, once-classified FBI files, police records, court transcripts, the files of private detectives, and other sources collected by historians Joe Pinkston and Tom Smusyn has allowed author Dary Matera to describe every robbery, shooting, and prison escape of Dillinger’s career. Along the way, he presents a vivid picture of America’s ongoing fascination with notoriety and its enduring flirtation with lawlessness.

More than seventy years after the famous outlaw’s death, the story of John Dillinger—who became the FBI’s first “Public Enemy” and almost singlehandedly catalyzed the modernization of law enforcement—can be told free of rumor and flat-out fiction.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this overly detailed biography, true-crime veteran Matera (The FBI's Ten Most Wanted, etc.) painstakingly recounts every bullet fired by the legendary robber John Dillinger, his criminal cohorts and his law-enforcement adversaries. Starting with a car theft at the age of 20, the gangster-obsessed Dillinger rapidly descended into a busy career as a bank robber, working with such pros as Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd. In the 1930s, Americans avidly followed Dillinger's crime spree and spectacular escapes from custody. Some portrayed him as a Robin Hood, while others cynically suspected that he often worked in cahoots with the very financial institutions he victimized. The book's most sensational claim is that the famous theater-alley gunfight in which Dillinger died was actually an official hit intended to cover up police corruption. The rather rigid straightforward storytelling obscures Dillinger's personality, and the countless heists and running gun battles tend to merge into one another. The epilogue, however, puts the criminal's significance in context by demonstrating his role in the creation of the FBI and new police tactics for dealing with armed robbers. Students of crime as well as those interested in the public fascination with larger-than-life figures on the other side of the law will find this useful. Agent, Gene Brissie at James Peter Associates. (May 22) FYI: After eight years in prison, Dillinger was paroled on May 22, 1933, a date that marks the start of the most storied crime spree in U.S. history. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
There has long been a fascination with outlaws, going back to Jesse James (who might well lay claim to having been a celebrity criminal long before Dillinger) and of course more recently the ever popular gangsters of the 1930s. Today, this interest is perhaps stronger than ever, as demonstrated by the success of titles like Max Allan Collins's graphic novel Road to Perdition, later made into a popular movie. Therefore, one would expect this title by former journalist Matera (FBI's Ten Most Wanted) to be a popular item in library collections. And rightly so: Matera's book is written in a light, breezy style that casual readers will enjoy. There is some new substance as well, for Matera is the first writer to make extensive use of the archives of the Dillinger Museum in Nashville, IN, a treasure trove of oral history interviews and contemporary newspaper and police reports. The notes section seems a bit weak, but this is still highly recommend for public libraries and for those academic libraries where crime biographies are in demand. Charlie Cowling, Drake Memorial Lib., Brockport, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780760791288
Publisher:
Barnes & Noble
Publication date:
06/28/2007
Pages:
448
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

Meet the Author

Dary Matera is the author of thirteen books, including the New York Times bestseller Are You Lonesome Tonight?, Quitting the Mob (co-author), What’s In It For Me? (co-author), and The FBI’s Ten Most Wanted.

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