The Year of Fear: Machine Gun Kelly and the Manhunt That Changed the Nation
It's 1933 and Prohibition has given rise to the American gangster--now infamous names like Bonnie and Clyde and John Dillinger. Bank robberies at gunpoint are commonplace and kidnapping for ransom is the scourge of a lawless nation. With local cops unauthorized to cross state lines in pursuit and no national police force, safety for kidnappers is just a short trip on back roads they know well from their bootlegging days. Gangster George "Machine Gun" Kelly and his wife, Kathryn, are some of the most celebrated criminals of the Great Depression. With gin-running operations facing extinction and bank vaults with dwindling stores of cash, Kelly sets his sights on the easy-money racket of kidnapping. His target: rich oilman, Charles Urschel.
Enter J. Edgar Hoover, a desperate Justice Department bureaucrat who badly needs a successful prosecution to impress the new administration and save his job. Hoover's agents are given the sole authority to chase kidnappers across state lines and when Kelly bungles the snatch job, Hoover senses his big opportunity. What follows is a thrilling 20,000 mile chase over the back roads of Depression-era America, crossing 16 state lines, and generating headlines across America along the way--a historical mystery/thriller for the ages.
Joe Urschel's The Year of Fear is a thrilling true crime story of gangsters and lawmen and how an obscure federal bureaucrat used this now legendary kidnapping case to launch the FBI.
Praise for The Year of Fear: Machine Gun Kelly and the Manhunt That Changed the Nation
“A compelling tale that looks at the turbulent year of 1933, and the narrative reads like the most nail-biting thriller imaginable — yet it’s all true. . . . Urschel does an amazing job chronicling a time in history that was rough for those that lived it while making the events extremely readable. All history textbooks should be this fun and informative. Even experts of the period will find this book rewarding and might learn something new.” —Salon
"A good, fast read. . . . The Year of Fear takes off — and shatters the lore." - The Washington Post
“The Year of Fear, Joe Urschel’s entertaining new history of 1933, takes off, in a wheel-spinning flurry of detail that brings the era to life. . . . Urschel builds atmosphere and suspense with a swift narrative and strong sense of place.” —USA Today
“This story about Depression-era gangster George "Machine Gun" Kelly is as compelling and illuminating as Laura Hillenbrand's account of Depression-era racehorse Seabiscuit.... The narrative propels the reader through kidnapping, manhunt, trial, and imprisonment in Alcatraz against a backdrop of historical details.... Many true-crime books claim to shine a light on their chosen eras. This one is the real deal.” —Booklist starred review
“For those interested in the early years of the FBI and gangsters, this is the book to read. Readers will be completely absorbed.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“A true crime page-turner.” —Publishers Weekly
“The author packs the pages with shootouts, bank robbers, and corrupt cops.” —Kirkus Reviews
"Double the trouble, twice the action, and quadruple the enjoyment of a novel, this stuff is real. Gangsters, G-men, and the 1930s --- but it's not what you think. Instead, this little-known tale from history is better." -Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author
“A notorious gangster, a dramatic kidnapping and a splashy, page-one trial. In Joseph Urschel's hands it adds up to a gripping, fast-paced portrait of America at the crossroads of a lawless "year of fear." The Year of Fear aims high and -- much like "Machine Gun" Kelly himself -- Urschel hits the target.” —Daniel Stashower, author of The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War
“Bullets fly in this page-turner about "Machine Gun" Kelly's high-profile kidnapping of an oil tycoon. The Year of Fear pushes you into the shotgun seat as a clever, tough-talking gangster matches wits with a young J. Edgar Hoover and his federal agents. While the story marks the history-making birth of Hoover's FBI--it is Urschel's vivid portrait of Kelly's beguiling, dangerous wife Kathryn that ultimately steals the show.” —John F. Ross, bestselling author of Enduring Courage
“History continues to add to the often unsavory reputation of J. Edgar Hoover, that sly, unscrupulous, self-aggrandizing schemer, and Joseph Urschel has added a fresh and vivid chapter. In The Year of Fear, Urschel shows Hoover employing all his dark talents to exploit the most sensational crime of 1933--kidnapping--and thus demonstrate that America needed what became the FBI.” —Robert MacNeil, journalist, news anchor and bestselling author