Cover image for The year of fear : Machine Gun Kelly and the manhunt that changed the nation
Title:
The year of fear : Machine Gun Kelly and the manhunt that changed the nation
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Minotaur Books, 2015.

©2015
ISBN:
9781250020796
Physical Description:
xi, 290 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Language:
English
Contents:
George and Kathryn go to work -- A massacre in Kansas City -- The Kidnapping Scourge -- The Abduction -- Welcome to Paradise -- The Delivery -- The Manhunt -- Catching Kelly -- The Kellys' Trial -- The G-men Take the Spotlight -- Alcatraz and the "Irredeemables."
Abstract:
"It's 1933 and Prohibition has given rise to the American gangster--now infamous names like Bonnie and Clyde and John Dillinger. Bank robberies at gunpoint are commonplace and kidnapping for ransom is the scourge of a lawless nation. With local cops unauthorized to cross state lines in pursuit and no national police force, safety for kidnappers is just a short trip on back roads they know well from their bootlegging days. Gangster George "Machine Gun" Kelly and his wife, Kathryn, are some of the most celebrated criminals of the Great Depression. With gin-running operations facing extinction and bank vaults with dwindling stores of cash, Kelly sets his sights on the easy-money racket of kidnapping. His target: rich oilman, Charles Urschel.Enter J. Edgar Hoover, a desperate Justice Department bureaucrat who badly needs a successful prosecution to impress the new administration and save his job. Hoover's agents are given the sole authority to chase kidnappers across state lines and when Kelly bungles the snatch job, Hoover senses his big opportunity. What follows is a thrilling 20,000 mile chase over the back roads of Depression-era America, crossing 16 state lines, and generating headlines across America along the way--a historical mystery/thriller for the ages.Joe Urschel's The Year of Fear is a thrilling true crime story of gangsters and lawmen and how an obscure federal bureaucrat used this now legendary kidnapping case to launch the FBI"-- Provided by publisher.
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Book 364.1523 URS 1
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Book 364.1523 URSCHEL 1 .SOURCE. INGRAM
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Book 364.1523 URSCHEL 1 .SOURCE. BT 9-24-15
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Prescott Public Library1Received on 9/8/15

Summary

Summary

It's 1933 and Prohibition has given rise to the American gangster--now infamous names like Bonnie and Clyde and John Dillinger. Bank robberies at gunpoint are commonplace and kidnapping for ransom is the scourge of a lawless nation. With local cops unauthorized to cross state lines in pursuit and no national police force, safety for kidnappers is just a short trip on back roads they know well from their bootlegging days. Gangster George "Machine Gun" Kelly and his wife, Kathryn, are some of the most celebrated criminals of the Great Depression. With gin-running operations facing extinction and bank vaults with dwindling stores of cash, Kelly sets his sights on the easy-money racket of kidnapping. His target: rich oilman, Charles Urschel.

Enter J. Edgar Hoover, a desperate Justice Department bureaucrat who badly needs a successful prosecution to impress the new administration and save his job. Hoover's agents are given the sole authority to chase kidnappers across state lines and when Kelly bungles the snatch job, Hoover senses his big opportunity. What follows is a thrilling 20,000 mile chase over the back roads of Depression-era America, crossing 16 state lines, and generating headlines across America along the way--a historical mystery/thriller for the ages.

Joe Urschel's The Year of Fear is a thrilling true crime story of gangsters and lawmen and how an obscure federal bureaucrat used this now legendary kidnapping case to launch the FBI.


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Urschel, the executive director of the National Law Enforcement Museum, overcomes some early stumbles to produce a true crime page-turner about George "Machine Gun" Kelly, a legendary Depression-era criminal man who is remembered-unjustifiably, according to the author-as "one of the most notorious hoodlums who terrorized the Midwest." The repercussions of Kelly's kidnapping of Oklahoma oilman Charles Urschel (not a relative of the author) in 1933 validate the bold claim made in the book's subtitle. The author effectively traces how Charles Urschel's wife's immediate call to a newly established federal hotline led to young J. Edgar Hoover's most successful investigation, and the birth of the FBI. Urschel makes clear how much of that success in the search for Kelly and his cohorts was due to the victim's incredible sangfroid while a captive and his remarkable memory for details, including the distances between buildings on the farm where he was held. There are some drawbacks-an initial tendency to dramatize events, the absence of detailed sourcing of information-but those who enjoyed Bryan Burroughs's more comprehensive Public Enemies (2004) will still find this focus on one colorful character enjoyable. Agent: Wayne Kabak, WSK Management. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Kirkus Review

The colorful story of George "Machine Gun" Kelly (1895-1954), a Depression-era kidnapping, and the rise of J. Edgar Hoover and his G-men. In 1933, the year after the famous Lindbergh baby kidnapping, oilman Charles Urschel (no relation to the author) was abducted from his Oklahoma home and held for nine days. After Urschel's release in exchange for a $200,000 ransom, the kidnapping turned into "a national melodrama thatplayed out over the nation's radio networks and on the pages of its newspapers." The notorious Kelly and his gangster-moll wife, Kathryn, were pursued in a frantic manhunt coordinated by the ambitious Hoover, who, at 36, had just become head of the U.S. Department of Justice's new Bureau of Investigation. In this action-packed debut, author Urschel, the former managing editor of USA Today who now directs the National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington, D.C., offers a vivid re-creation of the massive, multistate manhunt that led to the capture and imprisonment of America's "new Public Enemy Number One." Sometimes overly detailed and containing liberal quotations from contemporary newspaper accounts, with prose matching its tough-guy, B-movie aura ("She snapped the waistband closed with a definite click, like the sound of a .38 slug sliding into its chamber"), the book captures the rampant criminality of the 1930s and the public's yearning for a return to law and order. The author packs the pages with shootouts, bank robbers, and corrupt cops. With the passage of the Lindbergh law, making it a federal felony to take a kidnapping victim across state lines, the self-promoting Hoover was poised to stop Kelly and show that his agents had the makings of a federal police force. His bureau became the FBI in 1935. An entertaining slice of the fabled (and familiar) gangster epoch. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* This story about Depression-era gangster George Machine Gun Kelly is as compelling and illuminating as Laura Hillenbrand's account of Depression-era racehorse Seabiscuit. Both gangster and horse mesmerized and distracted a nation mired in crises Kelly in 1933 and Seabiscuit in 1938. Both were built for speed (Kelly had a customized Cadillac getaway car). Urschel, a former journalist and now the executive director of the National Law Enforcement Museum, has done a superb job of assembling a portrait of 1933 from Library of Congress materials, FBI files, site tours, and interviews with the descendants of the principals. The research, while obviously deep, never clogs the story. As Urschel notes in his introduction, 1933 was a year remarkable for the way that the bank collapse, J. Edgar Hoover's setting up of the nation's first crime hotline, and the growth of the mass media all came together in the story of Machine Gun Kelly's most audacious crime and the manhunt that followed. Urschel shows how gangsters of the time were forced to move from robbing tapped-out banks to the Snatch Racket, in which wealthy citizens were kidnapped and held for ransom. Kelly's most promising victim was Oklahoma oilman Charles Urschel (very distantly related to the author). The narrative propels the reader through kidnapping, manhunt, trial, and imprisonment in Alcatraz against a backdrop of historical details, such as the Lindbergh baby kidnapping that so haunted J. Edgar Hoover, making him desperate to solve the Urschel case. Many true-crime books claim to shine a light on their chosen eras. This one is the real deal.--Fletcher, Connie Copyright 2015 Booklist


Library Journal Review

Urschel (executive director, National Law Enforcement Museum) describes how J. Edgar Hoover built what later became the FBI. In 1933, Hoover was desperate to find a case that would propel his agency into the limelight, but the only authority it had jurisdiction over was kidnapping. On the morning of July 22, 1933, he received a call from Berenice Urschel (no relation to the author) saying that her husband, Charles, had been abducted. Hoover took control of this investigation and had his agents working on it 24/7. Charles Urschel, a wealthy oil man, was able to pay attention to his surroundings despite being blindfolded and later provided Hoover with information. It turned out that George "Machine Gun" Kelly and his wife, Kathryn, were the leaders of ordeal. In three months, Hoover's agents traveled 20,000 miles through 16 states and captured and convicted the perpetrators, with six of nine defendants given life sentences. Hoover was also instrumental in the construction of Alcatraz, which was where Kelly was imprisoned for 18 years. VERDICT For those interested in the early years of the FBI and gangsters, this is the book to read. Just as this crime held the interest of the people on a daily basis in 1933 through the newspapers and radios, today's readers will be completely absorbed.-Michael Sawyer, Pine Bluff, AR © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.