Joe Urschel – The Year of Fear


It’s 1933, and Prohibition has given rise to the American gangster. 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.

George “Machine Gun” Kelly and his wife, Kathryn, are some of the most celebrated gangsters of their era. 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.

The Year of Fear is a thrilling true story of gangsters and lawmen and how an obscure federal bureaucrat used this now legendary kidnapping case to launch the FBI.

Author: Joe Urschel
Narrator: Jeremy Bobb
Duration: 9 hours 4 minutes
Released: 15 Aug 2009
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Language: English

User Review:

colonist tawny

The story of the manhunt takes a while to get going and ultimately fizzles out. I suppose that may be a function of the fact that it’s a true story, but it also reflects in part on the choices made by the author about what the focus of the story would and would not be. It’s not bad, and one gains an interesting sense if the era in which the manhunt unfolded, but it’s just less compelling than one would expect of a manhunt story involving a true-life character known as Machine Gun Kelly.