"Danny robbed 19 banks in six weeks before he was caught and sent to prison; when he was released almost eight years later, he picked up the habit again."
America’s favourite left-wing organ, The New York Times, has greeted Chas Smith’s fourth book in the same way a boy in the furnace of adolescence might examine a woman in a state of considerable undress, with a detailed and dreamy inspection and a more than ordinary enthusiasm.
Blessed are the Bank Robbers is reviewed alongside others in the true crime genre including Hell’s Half-Acre, “a serial killer family on the American frontier” and The Far Land, “a bizarre mash-up of an 18th-century adventure novel and the darkest episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit imaginable”.
Armed robbery, serial killing, uncontrolled pedophilia.
A decent fit.
Read a little.
Equal parts true crime, memoir and bank-heist how-to, (Blessed are the Bank Robbers) is the story of Smith’s cousin Danny, the Floppy Hat Bandit who, Smith says, ‘has to be within spitting distance of the U.S. record for bank robberies.
Danny, drowning in gambling debts, held up his first bank in 2006. Soon he hit another, then another. The endorphin high of gambling was quickly supplanted by the endorphin high of committing crimes. “Who would dare step away from the table in the middle of a hot streak?” Smith writes. “Who would dare leave potential millions behind when the odds had crumbled, when fate had chosen a victor?” Danny robbed 19 banks in six weeks before he was caught and sent to prison; when he was released almost eight years later, he picked up the habit again.
Most interesting is the way Smith plumbs their shared history looking for clues to Danny’s life. At one point, he remembers how their families would gather to watch swashbuckling missionary slide shows that featured their fathers’ experiences in places like the jungles of Nicaragua and Honduras. “The seed of Cousin Danny’s bank robbing,” he believes, was likely planted during those long evenings watching the “bigger-than-life Courson adventure we were all living.
Blessed are the Bank Robbers, 256 pages in width, is released worldwide, Tuesday, March 15 (US).