Johnnie Death

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Reviews of Johnnie Death (1 review)

4 - Good Review

Reviewer:

Who's William Schnurr? I don't know either, but this appears to be the only book he wrote. But it's a good one, as he retells the story of John Dillinger, from the perspective of Shorty, John's best friend since childhood. Ever since I read Ron Hansen's "The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford" (not on BookShare, but if y'all are signed up for BARD, they've got it--READ IT!), I've always been on the hunt for more books of the same style: fictionalized, but highly factual, accounts of historical events, particularly those related to crime. So far, Johnnie Death probably comes closest. Schnurr does see fit to change names (Johnnie's last name is Donner in this book), but if you're familiar with the Dillinger story, you'll recognize the people and places. Shorty's narrating style is wry and rueful as he recounts their shared story, from their growing-up years in Indiana, to their nine-year prison stint for an ill-planned, poorly-executed robbery attempt, to their fourteen months of bank heists, shootouts with the law, and the national hysteria that ensued. There are plenty of comic adventures, as, left to his own devices, John's endeavors often turn into farces (sometimes deadly ones), and the cops, particularly the Feds, are portrayed as bungling idiots. Really the only drawback to the book is the writing style. For one thing, Schnurr LOVES adverbs, which often makes his writing seem clunky and awkward. But if you can get past that, Johnnie Death is highly enjoyable.