DILLINGER by G. Russell Girardin


The Untold Story
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 Initially written (but never published) in the 1930s, this biography of notorious gangster John Dillinger has the authentic flavor of the era, bolstered by its coauthor's firsthand contact with some of the leading players. Girardin penned his manuscript not long after Dillinger was shot dead by the FBI at the Biograph Theatre on North Lincoln Avenue in Chicago on July 22, 1934. An advertising man, he had had a chance meeting with Dillinger's dubious lawyer, one Louis Piquett, and had been prompted to follow the outlaw's story. In 1990, just before he died, he collaborated with William Helmer (The Gun That Made the Twenties Roar, 1969) to produce the present text. Dillinger was the most charismatic and charming of the '20s-era gangsters, with none of the cold-blooded ruthlessness of Al Capone or Baby Face Nelson. The centerpiece of the book is an account of Dillinger's first and most spectacular jailbreak, from a small prison in Arizona, with a wooden gun smuggled in by one of his associates (Piquett himself was suspected). The escape was a national sensation, and Piquett, who had a sharp eye for any opportunity, became the ``most famous lawyer in America'' (in his own words). The authors shed interesting light on crime detection in the US and its relative backwardness as late as the 1920s. Before the emergence of the FBI, the looseness of national policing made it relatively easy for outlaws to roam the country; the creation of this agency in essentially its contemporary form was precisely what stopped Dillinger in his tracks. As Hoover said, the outlaw had two major weaknesses: sex and ``a flair for the spectacular.'' He was betrayed by a woman who was linked to one of his police killers, and he did indeed die spectacularly. Thousands of people filed past the Biograph Theatre to dip handkerchiefs in his blood. Eminently revealing and enjoyable.

Pub Date: May 31st, 1994
ISBN: 0-253-32556-0
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Indiana Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1994


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