Synopses & Reviews
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 misdeeds--spiced with accounts of his swashbuckling bravado and cool daring--provided 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 men--police, FBI agents, gangsters, and civilians--lost 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.
"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)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Is this a good time for another Dillinger book? The author thinks so, and readers will too by the end of the book. Gorn... 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... 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."--Library Journal
"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
"This history of African Americans for a new generation breaks new ground by offering a fresh, articulate, succinct, and comprehensive examination of recent black history."and#8212;W. T. Howard, CHOICE
and#8220;An indispensable survey of modern African American history and its implications in the present. Expansive in its breadth, keen in its observations, and fluid in its prose, this is the best single volume on the period.and#8221;and#8212;William Jelani Cobb, associate professor of history and director of the Institute of African American Studies, University of Connecticut, and author of The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress
and#8220;A strong contribution to the field and historiography of African American history. Written in clear and concise language and filled with brilliant insights.and#8221;and#8212;Peniel Joseph, professor of history at Tufts University, and author of Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama
and#8220;Eloquent yet concise, Professor Whitakerand#8217;s thoughtful survey of contemporary African American History offers a rich narrative that expertly situates the victories and hardships of the last half century, within the context of a long Black Freedom struggle, the ebbs and flows of which continues to this day. Peace Be Still should be required reading for all serious students of U.S. and African American History.and#8221;and#8212;Yohuru Williams, professor and chair of the Department of History, Fairfield University, and author of Black Politics/White Power: Civil Rights Black Power and the Black Panthers in New Haven
In an era that had witnessed the rise of celebrity outlaws, John Dillinger had been the most famous and flamboyant of them all. Gorn provides a riveting account of the period between 1933 and 1934, when the Dillinger gang robbed more than a dozen banks.
A concise, engaging, and provocative history of African Americans since World War II, Peace Be Still
is also nothing less than an alternate history of the United States in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Organizing this history around culture, politics, and resistance, Matthew C. Whitaker takes us from World War II as a galvanizing force for African American activism and the modern civil rights movement to the culmination of generations of struggle in the election of Barack Obama.
From the promise of the postand#8211;World War II era to the black power movement of the 1960s, the economic and political struggles of the 1970s, and the major ideological realignment of political culture during the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, this book chronicles a people fighting oppression while fashioning a dynamic culture of artistic and religious expression along with a program of educational and professional advancement. A resurgence of rigid conservative right-wing policies, the politics of poverty, racial profiling, and police brutality are ongoing counterpoints to African Americans rising to political prominence and securing positions once denied them.
A history of African Americans for a new generation, Peace Be Still demonstrates how dramatically African American history illuminates the promise, conflicts, contradictions, hopes, and victories that all Americans share.
About the Author
Matthew C. Whitaker is ASU Foundation Professor of History and founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Arizona State University. He is the author of Race Work: The Rise of Civil Rights in the Urban West (Nebraska, 2005) and the coeditor of Hurricane Katrina: Americaand#8217;s Unnatural Disaster (Nebraska, 2009).