Bandit Bookshelf: Stories About Robbers, Fugitives and Outlaws

Bandit Bookshelf: Stories About Robbers, Fugitives and Outlaws


Earlier this month the nearly 20-year chase for one of England’s most notorious bank robbers, “Fast Eddie,” came to a strange conclusion in the tiny city of Ozark, Missouri, the New York Times reports. Edward Maher, 56, had been leading an inconspicuous life working as a local cable technician, but he and his family harbored an astonishing secret. In 1993 he pulled off what British tabloids called the “perfect crime,” emptying an armored security car of its contents—1 million pounds—and fleeing to the States, evading authorities until the case eventually went cold.

The details of Maher’s movements in the two intervening decades are still scant, but when the story emerges, it’s sure to find a place alongside our greatest outlaw narratives. Here, five riveting tales of famous men (and women) on the run:

D. B. Cooper: The Airplane Robber Who Vanished Forever   
In 1971, a passenger aboard a Northwest Orient flight told a stewardess he had a bomb onboard, extorted $200,000 from the airline, and then parachuted into the wilderness between Portland and Seattle, never to be seen again. In the 40 years that have passed, the hunt for D. B. Cooper has never cooled completely. In “Skyjack: The Hunt for D. B. Cooper,” Geoffrey Gray offers a few theories and profiles some of Cooper’s most obsessive pursuers.

Bonnie and Clyde: Dangerous Love
In “Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde,” Jeff Guinn cuts through our romantic notions about these Depression-era bank-robbing lovebirds, immortalized in the Oscar-winning 1967 film “Bonnie and Clyde.” The story nevertheless reads like a thriller, all the way to its gloriously brutal end.

John Dillinger: A Notorious (and Beloved) Bank Robber
The FBI’s first official “public enemy” robbed banks all across America and, even after authorities caught up with him, managed a prison escape worthy of Houdini. Matera’s book, “John Dillinger: The Life and Death of America’s First Celebrity Criminal,” Dary Matera brings to light unreported heists and divulges new revelations about the “Lady in Red,” the snitch who finally ratted Dillinger out.

Frank W. Abagnale: Master of Disguise
Few fugitives have the opportunity to write their own story, but Frank Abagnale—who posed as a pilot, doctor, professor, lawyer, and laundered millions in forged checks, all before his 21st birthday—is a changed man. He is now a consultant and lecturer for the FBI and runs his own financial fraud consultancy. In “Catch Me If You Can,” he’s captured both the glamour and peril of his years as an impostor with stunning honesty. The book has been made into a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, as well as a Broadway musical.

Colton Harris-Moore: The Barefoot Bandit
Most fugitive tales drip with nostalgia for bygone eras, but the twenty-first century finally got its very own bandit in Colton Harris-Moore, a rascally teen from a poor family who graduated from burglarizing houses in the Pacific Northwest to stealing planes on Orcas Island by the age of 19. Author Bob Friel was an Orcas Island resident during the height of the hunt, and in “The Barefoot Bandit: The True Tale of Colton Harris-Moore, New American Outlaw,” he dissects Harris-Moore’s wild antics and the way they divided his community, inciting rage in some, winning the sympathy of others.


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