And probably a big winner for French Connection screenwriter Tidyman: a tight, well-researched, sometimes funny book about...


BIG BUCKS: The True, Outrageous Story of the Plymouth Mail Robbery and How They Got Away With It

And probably a big winner for French Connection screenwriter Tidyman: a tight, well-researched, sometimes funny book about one of the crimes of the century, the motley group that pulled it off, and the assorted characters who tried to catch them. Pseudonyms are used here, but anyone with access to Boston newspaper files can figure out most of the dramatis personae in the ingenious 1962 robbery of a post office van (the feds were saving money on an armored car) heading up from Cape Cod to Boston, packed with $1.5 million in bank deposits from a big summer weekend. Not a shot was fired, the loot was never recovered and, although three people were eventually indicted, no one was convicted of the crime. The planning genius was Murphy, an unassuming fellow of fixed habits--he bought one pair of shoes a year, gave his wife a $75 weekly allowance, pulled off innumerable heists and sealed the proceeds behind his frequently-retiled bathroom walls. His Plymouth job accomplices were a mixed bag: Harry, the imperturbable wheelman; Conrad, the weapons specialist (whose wife, after 18 years of marriage, did not know his occupation); Joey and Frank, two tough young Italians (Murphy saw them as ""the sort of savages he needed to send into a bank first""); and Sam, a gentle giant who could sometimes be moved to violence (to a federal investigator: ""You ever bother [my wife] again, I'm going to come up behind you and kill you with my bare hands. Maybe I'll let your family watch""). In the other corner: Reno, a larger-than-life Boston cop (to a smalltime hood: ""If I find a gun on you, I'm gonna stick it up your ass as far as my elbow and pull the trigger""); Castle, the FBI man who ""looked like a gorilla with a good barber""; and assorted inept postal inspectors. The feds finally figured the money had to be in Sam's house, which they razed in a frenzy. Murphy had moved the money out the previous night. Eventually, spurious evidence was used to crack Sam, who was then indicted along with Murphy and Joey's wife (a story in herself, but uninvolved in the robbery--the ""woman"" member of the gang was Sam in costume). Sam disappeared--possibly (probably?) killed--while Murphy and his co-defendant got off, with a little help from F. Lee Bailey. And here's how much chutzpah Murphy had: when the dust settled, he told investigators he'd swap the Plymouth proceeds for part of the offered reward money--then robbed the feds of $100,000 at gunpoint when the exchange was to be made. All true, claims Tidyman, and he must be right: no one could make this up. Lots of fun, and readers can cast the movie as they go along.

Pub Date: May 24, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1982