Machine Gun Kelly's Last Stand
Sales Date: June 23, 2003
248 Pages, 6.13 x 9.25 in
- Published: June 2003
Orchestrated to the sounds of getaway cars and machine guns, the abduction of Oklahoma City businessman Charles Urschel in 1933 was a highly publicized crime in an era when gangsters were folk heroes and kidnapping had become a scourge. The criminals’ interstate flight to a desolate hideout in Texas called for federal action, instigating the most intensive manhunt the country had yet seen. It also set in motion a chain of events that would have lasting significance for crime-fighting in America.
In an exciting account of that celebrated manhunt, Stanley Hamilton rekindles the spirit of yesterday's newsreels to chronicle the pursuit and capture of George “Machine Gun” Kelly and his wife, Kathryn. Tapping a wealth of newspaper reports, court transcripts, literary accounts, and recollections of participants, he draws readers into the chase and its aftermath, unraveling what was then considered the most compelling crime mystery of the day.
Hamilton sets the stage with an overview of the lawlessness of that era and of Kelly’s formative years, getting under the skin of a hard-boiled criminal to show us what made Kelly tick. He assembles a cast of larger-than-life characters to weave this tale of true crime, one of the largest of whom was the 38-year-old director of the national police force, J. Edgar Hoover.
Hoover had revitalized an ineffective agency whose operatives were still not authorized to carry firearms or make arrests, and when the Urschel case broke, it was Hoover who stepped up to coordinate the manhunt. Hamilton takes readers behind the scenes in Hoover’s operation to show how this case was responsible for popularizing the G-man and institutionalizing the FBI, creating the agent-as-hero image that replaced earlier characterizations of blundering foils to glamorous gangsters.
This iconic kidnapping case, breathlessly followed by a fascinated public, was so quickly and effectively concluded that it was largely instrumental in bringing about the end of the Gangster Era in America. Machine Gun Kelly’s Last Stand brings that era to life again by providing a fresh look at one of America’s most notorious criminals, vividly recreating the times in which he lived and sharing the stories of the people whose lives he touched.
"Hamilton dramatizes the central facts of the case in detail redolent of the period. Entertainment for true-crime buffs."—Booklist
"This well-paced book . . . offers societal context, personal histories, and two trials, as well as a complex crime examined from start to finish. . . . It should earn reputable standing in true crime, a competitive genre regularly noted for its terrific new entries. Best of all, Hamilton paints no sympathy for criminals who rain destruction wherever they roam, and he returns to the national memory a resolute family that refused to cower."—Kansas Alumni Magazine
“Hamilton’s thorough research and electric narrative style illuminate George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly’s sensational criminal career and the untold tale of his subsequent incarceration. In telling Kelly’s story, Hamilton also tells the story of his victim, Charles Urschel, and adds an important chapter to the history of kidnapping in the United States.”—Claire Potter, author of War on Crime: Bandits, G-Men, and the Politics of Mass Culture
“Hamilton’s authoritative account of the ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly case offers a fascinating insight into the ‘gangster era’ of the early ‘30s and the operations of the FBI. His research is impeccable and his book a terrific read.”—Lee Grieveson, coeditor of Mob Culture: Essays on the American Gangster Film
List of Illustrations
2. The War against Crime
3. Charles Urschel
4. Ransom Demand
5. Down on the Ranch
6. The (Delayed) Drop
7. The Hunt
8. The Kidnappers
9. The Roundup
10. The Trail and Trial (No. 1)
11. The “Big” Trial
12. Echoes and Reverberations
13. Letters from the “Inside”
14. The Case That Wouldn’t End
15. The Other Victim
16. What Happened to . . .