Monday, July 15, 2024
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The Kidnap Years: The Astonishing True History of the Forgotten Kidnapping Epidemic That Shook Depression-Era America by David Stout. Published April 7, 2020 by Sourcebooks. Photos courtesy of the publisher.

Review by Michael Pierce

The stock market had crashed in 1929. Prohibition was approaching a decade of having been enacted. Organized crime was becoming far more organized as restrictions on alcohol made those who wished to imbibe dependent on bootleggers.

Small time criminals, and Americans who had otherwise lived normal, peaceful lives, were becoming desperate for ways to make money.

Kidnapping family members of wealthy folks was already becoming an epidemic when, on 1 March 1932, Bruno Hauptmann placed a ladder beneath a second story window of a house in New Jersey and snatched a baby.

The child he snatched was the son of Charles and Anne Lindbergh. The body of the little boy was soon found and Hauptmann was tried, found guilty and executed for the crime.

David Stout

The Kidnap Years weaves together the stories of several kidnappings that took place in the United States throughout the decade of the 1930s. The late David Stout (he passed away in February) begins telling their stories as they occur, which can be a bit confusing at times for the reader, as you’ll find yourself going back and forth between stories. However, it’s still a very interesting book, and a fun read.

It’s the story of real kidnappings, fake kidnappings, kidnappings of adults, and of kids. It’s the story of training people on how to be kidnapped, and of J. Edgar Hoover’s fledgling Federal Bureau of Investigation poking its nose into some situations, taking credit for successes and assigning blame when things went wrong.

Stout has given readers a volume that gives us details without being boring, and he has opened a window into this important time in American history. Give this book a read. It’s fun.

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