Norco '80 : the true story of the most spectacular bank robbery in American history

by Houlahan, Peter, 1961-

Format: Print Book [2019]
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"[An] alarming account of a bank heist that rocked the country in 1980 and reflected 'the peculiar zeitgeist of that decade' in all its cockeyed drama . . . For a first-time writer, Houlahan sure knows how to dramatize a scene. His cinematic treatment of the robbery itself reads like wildfire, the fatal shootout with the police ends in colorful chaos, and the huge manhunt through San Bernardino National Forest conducted by 'Hunt & Kill Teams' is a nail-biter." --Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

Norco '80 tells the story of how five heavily armed young men--led by an apocalyptic born-again Christian--attempted a bank robbery that turned into one of the most violent criminal events in U.S. history, forever changing the face of American law enforcement. Part action thriller and part courtroom drama, Norco '80 transports the reader back to the Southern California of the 1970s, an era of predatory evangelical gurus, doomsday predictions, megachurches, and soaring crime rates, with the threat of nuclear obliteration looming over it all.

In this riveting true story, a group of landscapers transformed into a murderous gang of bank robbers armed to the teeth with military-grade weapons. Their desperate getaway turned the surrounding towns into war zones. When it was over, three were dead and close to twenty wounded; a police helicopter was forced down from the sky, and thirty-two police vehicles were destroyed by thousands of rounds of ammo. The resulting trial shook the community to the core, raising many issues that continue to plague society today: from the epidemic of post-traumatic stress disorder within law enforcement to religious extremism and the militarization of local police forces.
Published Reviews
Publisher's Weekly Review: "Vague sourcing and fictionalization mar EMT Houlahan's otherwise promising first book, an account of a bank robbery whose aftermath left dead on both sides of the law. In 1980, five heavily armed men, led by George Wayne Smith and Christopher Harven, held up the Security Pacific Bank in Norco, Calif. Smith and Harven weren't typical thieves. They wanted the money because they believed that "America was on the verge of a catastrophe of biblical proportions, one in which only the well-armed and well-prepared would survive." The execution of their plot was poor. Explosives planted some distance from the bank, intended as a diversion that would draw law enforcement away from the scene of the crime, didn't explode as planned. At one point, Houlihan enters the mind of Billy Delgado, the driver of the robbers' van, and conveys his thoughts. Soon afterward, a bullet to the neck mortally wounds Billy. "His body seemed to disappear on him. He could not feel it at all.... The only thing he could feel was a sharp stinging at the back of his neck." This may be plausible, but it remains speculation, and an author note on sources, in which he says, "Everything presented, whether in dialogue or narrative, is as factual as I could determine based on a wide range of sources," does nothing to reassure readers that he has not used dramatic license elsewhere. That Houlahan writes well suggests he's capable of doing better next time. Agent: Jeff Ourvan, Jennifer Lyons Literary. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects Bank robberies -- California -- Norco -- Case studies.
Violent crimes -- California -- Norco -- Case studies.
Case studies.
True crime stories.
Publisher Berkeley, California :[2019]
Language English
Description xiv, 384 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
ISBN 9781640092129
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