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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Year of Fear

The Year of Fear

Machine Gun Kelly and the Manhunt That Changed the Nation

Joe Urschel

Minotaur Books


It's 1933 and Prohibition has given rise to the American gangster--now infamous names like Bonnie and Clyde and John Dillinger. 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. Gangster George "Machine Gun" Kelly and his wife, Kathryn, are some of the most celebrated criminals of the Great Depression. 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--a historical mystery/thriller for the ages.

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



As J. Edgar Hoover lay asleep in his home in the early morning hours of July 22, 1933, he was fitfully aware of the tentative hold he had on the job he had come to know and love. He was Director...

Praise for The Year of Fear

"The Year of Fear, Joe Urschel's entertaining new history of 1933, takes off, in a wheel-spinning flurry of detail that brings the era to life." - USA Today -

Reviews from Goodreads

Joe Urschel

JOE URSCHEL is the former Executive Director of the National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington, DC. Urschel is also a former managing editor of USA TODAY, where he served as a senior correspondent and columnist and has worked for the Detroit Free Press as a reporter, critic, and editor. His journalism honors include awards from the National Association of Newspaper Columnists, the National Association of Sunday and Feature Editors, and an Emmy. He lives in Virginia.

image of Joe Urschelo
Photograph by Sam Kittner, courtesy of Newseum, Inc.

Joe Urschel

National Law Enforcement Museum Web site

Minotaur Books

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