First-time author Peter Houlahan has already figured out how to write as well as the best narrative nonfiction writers out there. Norco ’80 tells the true tale of an epic bank robbery. Not only does the reader get a minute-by-minute account of the day, but Houlahan also brings great depth to the characters involved. Norco ’80 should not slide past the bedside stands of any fans of fast-paced true crime. Recommended By Jeffrey J., Powells.com
Peter Houlahan comes to the story of a California bank robbery gone wrong fully armed with facts culled from interviews, police reports, and court documents. He deploys them in steady bursts that hold the reader steady in a literary bullet time while the fast motion mayhem plays out. Norco ’80 is a riveting true crime adventure that also explains one of the predicates for the militarization of modern police departments. Recommended By Keith M., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
One of NPR's Best Books of the Year
"Gripping. . . [R]eads like a crime novel in the best way possible. . . Norco '80 is a fascinating true-crime account that seems likely to be one of the best nonfiction books of the year." NPR
"[An] alarming account of a bank heist that rocked the country in 1980. . . For a first-time writer, Houlahan sure knows how to dramatize a scene. His cinematic treatment of the robbery itself reads like wildfire, the fatal shootout with the police ends in colorful chaos, and the huge manhunt through San Bernardino National Forest conducted by 'Hunt & Kill Teams' is a nail-biter." The New York Times Book Review
Norco '80 tells the story of how five heavily armed young men — led by an apocalyptic born-again Christian — attempted a bank robbery that turned into one of the most violent criminal events in U.S. history, forever changing the face of American law enforcement. Part action thriller and part courtroom drama, Norco '80 transports the reader back to the Southern California of the 1970s, an era of predatory evangelical gurus, doomsday predictions, megachurches, and soaring crime rates, with the threat of nuclear obliteration looming over it all.
In this riveting true story, a group of landscapers transformed into a murderous gang of bank robbers armed to the teeth with military-grade weapons. Their desperate getaway turned the surrounding towns into war zones. When it was over, three were dead and close to twenty wounded; a police helicopter was forced down from the sky, and thirty-two police vehicles were destroyed by thousands of rounds of ammo. The resulting trial shook the community to the core, raising many issues that continue to plague society today: from the epidemic of post-traumatic stress disorder within law enforcement to religious extremism and the militarization of local police forces.
“Simply put, Norco ’80 is one of the best true crime accounts ever written. Harrowing, incisive, and important. But also? A goddamned thrill ride. This is a book you’ll read and then talk about for weeks.” Tod Goldberg, author of Gangsterland
“There is no doubt that Norco ’80 is poised to become a true crime classic. It’s a marvel of pacing and information — at times racing ahead like a speeding bullet and others slowing down to provide a perfect panorama of a hairsbreadth moment.” Ivy Pochoda, author of Wonder Valley
“Norco ’80 reads like a pre-apocalyptic nightmare, and it’s all true. Houlahan’s writing is intimate and stark, and the pacing relentless, as it tells the story of a group of young men who robbed a bank to prepare for the end of the world and succeeded in bringing fire and brimstone to one unfortunate small town and the police sworn to protect it.” James Renner, author of True Crime Addict
“Norco ’80 somehow makes meticulous research and devotion to the truth fuse with suspense and excitement until the reader is right there, a witness to this guns-blazing account of a crime that changed American law enforcement’s readiness for violence in the extreme.” Joseph Wambaugh, bestselling author of The Onion Field
About the Author
Peter Houlahan is a freelance writer contributing to a wide range of publications. In his career as an emergency medical technician, he has written a number of articles related to his profession, including the impact of PTSD on first responders. He holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. A native Southern Californian, Houlahan now lives in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Norco ’80 is his first book.
Peter Houlahan on PowellsBooks.Blog
The reason I have come to Jerry Baker’s weapons range at the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s training academy has to do with the research I am conducting for a book about the 1980 Norco Bank Robbery, one of the most violent events in law enforcement history...