Skip to main content

Dillinger's Wild Ride: The Year that Made America's Public Enemy Number One by Elliott Gorn

"The United Press laid out the contradictions in the coverage of John Dillinger:

He is mild mannered and never swears, but is evil-tempered and curses all the time. . . . He is a maniac but quite sane, and a moron but intelligent.

Dillinger has robbed 5, 16, 32, 78 banks in 4, 6, 7, 8 states and killed 2, 3, 11 and 17 men.

If you want to verify this, ask Dillinger. You will find him in Wisconsin, Montana, Arizona, Minnesota, Ohio, Texas or Idaho."

So reads one of many passages summarizing newspaper accounts of the day in Dillinger's Wild Ride by Elliott Gorn. I think this particular passages shows some self-awareness at the time of the way the media (in addition to J. Edgar Hoover and politicians, including President Franklin Roosevelt, seeking more funds and power for law enforcement) created the story that became the notorious John Dillinger in much the same way that dime novels created mythic legends of the Wild West gunfighters in times not so far removed from Dillinger's bank-robbing spree of 1933-34.

Through many quotes from contemporary newspapers and published and unpublished memoirs and interviews with Dillinger acquaintances and family members, Gorn shows he has done his homework on the subject. He also provides analysis and objective reporting of stories that may or may not have been true about Dillinger.

Gorn also makes the connection between the 1930s Great Depression, with 25% unemployment, the overnight loss of life savings with bank closings, etc., and our current situation of financial upheaval and job loss.

Also, though quite different than the story portrayed in the current movie Public Enemies, this book shows that Dillinger's "true" (or as close as we're going to get at this point) story was equally as fascinating. (Oh, by the way, Dillinger did walk through the Chicago Police Department's Dillinger Squad office without being recognized!!)

If you're interested in John Dillinger, the myth and the man, this is the book for you.

My overall personal rating of Dillinger's Wild Ride is a B+.


Popular posts from this blog

If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor

The May selection for my work book club is Jon McGregor's If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things (2002). The novel follows various individuals in one neighborhood on a particular day, an ordinary day that ends with a terrible tragedy.

Here's the short set of questions I e-mailed to book club members yesterday, along with my own responses.

Did you have a favorite character, or one that spoke to you the most? Who and why?
The father with the burned hands is the one who stayed with me the most after reading the book.

Did you notice that the day on which the events unfold is actually the same day that Diana, Princess of Wales, died? Does knowing that make any difference in how you see the story? I wouldn't have made the connection if I hadn't just watched some of the coverage of the Royal Wedding. To quote the author, he chose this particular day because his novel is about how ". . .everyday miracles of life and death go unwitnessed in favor of celebrity and sensati…

Current Little Pleasures

Girls' weekend in Omaha with Maya and her friend.

Happy Buddha:  Sweet Orange and Cedar Shower Foam from RITUALS

Time for iced or blended peppermint mochas.

Shopping for little gifts for Maya's Japanese pen pal.  They were matched through their schools, and we're hoping she can stay with us for a few days this summer.

The flock of wild turkeys, foxes, and other assorted wildlife entertaining us this fall.

Thanksgiving plans to visit my sister.

Hallmark Channel's Countdown to Christmas is back!

Current Little Pleasures

Christmas Keepsake Week, July 14-23, filled with Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel.

Sending Christmas (in July) cards with a Peace greeting to some of my favorite people.  Why not??

Scott Tube Free Toilet Paper--nothing to recycle.

Haagen-Dazs Coffee Ice Cream--always!

Baby Driver movie.

Seeing photos from my sisters and niece on Facebook during their Italy trip.  I can't imagine they will want to come back home!

What are your current little pleasures?