I’ve been writing about the history of the American Southwest for a dozen years, specifically efforts to secure law, order, and justice along the U.S.-Mexico borderlands during times of economic dislocation, political corruption, and criminal violence. My first book, Salt Warriors: Insurgency on the Rio Grande, relates how the corruption of law and politics and the legal theft of economic resources in El Paso led Tejano citizen soldiers to take up arms against Texas Rangers, Buffalo Soldiers, and a posse of outlaws and mercenaries. Salt Warriors won the Robert A. Calvert Book Prize (2007) and was named a Southwest Book of the Year for 2008.
While digging through the archives at the Arizona Historical Society, I came across newspaper accounts of an extraordinary crime, the kidnapping of June Robles of Tucson in 1934. That story led me to the wider history of the FBI’s War on Kidnapping, an element of FDR’s 1930s War on Crime, waged by the Justice Department’s Attorney General Homer S. Cummings and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
In Public Enemies, Bryan Burrough’s fast-paced masterpiece on the War on Crime, the author brings to life the early FBI’s 1930s war on the violent bank robbers and ransom kidnappers. He focuses on Hoover’s campaign to end the bloody careers of Dillinger, Nelson, Floyd, Bonnie and Clyde, Kelly, and the Barker-Karpis gang.
While Burrough touches on ransom kidnappings, he necessarily leaves out the wave of child kidnappings that took place in the 1930s. My current project focuses on the early FBI’s efforts to end ransom kidnappings, the dedication to duty of Hoover’s special agents in the field, the “G-men,” and the price of failure when a crime can’t be solved. The unsolved 1934 kidnapping of June Robles is the vehicle for telling that story. My first blog posts provided some background, dealing with major crimes that occurred before the so-called “Crime of the Century,” the Lindbergh baby kidnap/murder that led to federal legislation and FBI involvement. The book project is tentatively titled, The Girl in the Iron Box: Devotion to Duty & the Price of Failure in J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI.
The website also contains some photos my father took of fellow flyers in the famous 19th Bombardment Group and an article on Wyatt Earp’s nemesis, Curly Bill Brocius.
Enjoy. I look forward to your comments.