Tuesday, July 24, 2007
This book is interesting because I'm not sure how much I enjoyed it! The book is about the 1928 robbery of the First National Bank of Lamar Colorado committed by the "Fleagle Gang". The Fleagle's were a group of brothers. There were 4 of them, Ralph, Fred, Little Jake, and Walter. Whether they were all thieves or whether it was just Ralph and Little Jake isn't easily determined by the book. It's definite that the other 2 brothers knew of Ralph's and Little Jake's activities and offered assistance that 8 years later would have had them thrown in jail.
While I'm not sure I enjoyed the books reliance on old newspaper articles to tell the Fleagle's history; the use of the articles brings the reader into the dramatic events. A traditional narrative would have told the story much quicker and still have been interesting.
This book is the first I've read about a robbery that was prior to the depression. The Lamar robbery was violent: 2 deaths during the robbery; a hostage murdered; a doctor kidnapped and murdered. A comparison with some of the depression bandits who were both vilified and praised in different circles would make for interesting commentary.
Ralph Fleagle or maybe it was the sire Jake Fleagle made the commentary that they didn't steal from anyone who couldn't afford it. Sound Familiar? Crime was on the increase and local police were at a disadvantage because of jurisdiction problems and inferior transportation. Hmmm....
Anyway, one of the things that I liked about this group of cold blooded murdering thieves is that they took a very pragmatic approach to gang membership. While Ralph and Little Jake were the corner stones they actually hired other gang members for each job for a set fee. The hired men in the Lamar, Co. robbery, Abshier and Royston, each got $1500 for their part and a date with the hangman.
Oh yeah, this case is also great because it's one where forensic science really brought the killers to justice. One fingerprint brought the whole gang down during a time when there was a huge amount of scepticism on the science.