Dillinger's Wild Ride: The Year That Made America's Public Enemy Number One

July 7, 2009

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In an era that witnessed the rise of celebrity outlaws like Pretty Boy Floyd, and Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger was the most famous and flamboyant of them all. 

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. 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? 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, and about the transformation of America during the Great Depression.

Elliott J. Gorn is Professor of History and American Studies at Brown University. He is the author of The Manly Art: Bare-Knuckle Prize Fighting in America and Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America , among other books. A booksigning follows the talk.

 

Recorded Tuesday, July 07, 2009 at The Newberry Library.