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 misdeedsspiced with accounts of his swashbuckling bravado and cool daringprovided 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 menpolice, FBI agents, gangsters, and civilianslost 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.
Dillinger's Wild Ride is, inevitably, a rehash of familiar stories about Dillinger's crime spree. But Gorn -- a professor of history at Brown University who has a particular interest in popular history and sports -- tries hard to separate fact from myth, and he makes plausible arguments for why Dillinger captured the popular imagination.