Kathryn Kelly: The Moll Behind “Machine Gun” Kelly by Barbara Casey
Kathryn Kelly: The Moll Behind “Machine Gun” Kelly is a biography of the woman who made a career of crime. With a lust for danger, she masterminded the crimes that took her and her husband, and others who included her own mother and stepfather, on a spree across Minnesota, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Texas. Starting with smaller crimes that included bootlegging, smuggling liquor onto an Oklahoma Indian reservation, and other petty crimes, she encouraged her husband, George Barnes aka George Kelly, toward a life of more serious criminal activity that eventually escalated into bank robberies, kidnapping and extortion.
Many believe that it was Kathryn, after giving him a machine gun, who developed George’s feared persona and the name of Machine Gun Kelly. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was even convinced that the two were somehow connected in the Lindbergh kidnapping. Kathryn and Machine Gun Kelly were eventually captured after kidnapping Charles Urschel, a wealthy Oklahoma City oilman, and collecting a $200,000 ransom the largest ransom ever paid at that time.
Eventually, the two were captured in Memphis, where Kelly had grown up as a boy. During their trial in Oklahoma City, movie cameras were allowed into the courtroom for the first time as curious spectators across the nation watched. Kathryn, while claiming to be an innocent victim in a bad marriage, remained unrepentant, smiling and primping for the cameras, and writing threatening letters to the judge and attorneys assigned to the case as well as her victims.
Convicted in 1933, Kathryn served twenty-five years of her life sentence at FPC Alderson, West Virginia, when in 1958 she was finally released into obscurity. Although much has been written about Machine Gun Kelly, there is very little known about Kathryn.
Through narrative, FBI files, rare quotes from George Kelly’s son and other relatives and associates, extensive research, and several photographs, Kathryn Kelly ¬The Moll behind Machine Gun Kelly is the first book ever written about a woman who chose to follow a life of crime during the Prohibition era.
Barbara Casey is a partner in Strategic Media Books, and president of the Barbara Casey Agency, representing authors throughout the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Japan. She is also a manuscript consultant and the author of numerous articles, poems, and short stories.
Her award-winning novels have received national recognition, including the Independent Publishers Book Award. Her novel, The House of Kane, was considered for a Pulitzer nomination, and The Gospel According to Prissy, also a contemporary adult novel received several awards including the prestigious IPPY Award for Best Regional Fiction. Her most recent young adult novel, The Cadence of Gypsies, received the Independent Publishers Living Now Award and was reviewed by the Smithsonian for its list of Best Books.
Ms. Casey makes her home on the top of a mountain in northwest Georgia with her husband and three dogs who adopted her: Benton, a hound-mix, Fitz, a miniature dachshund, and Gert, a Jack Russel terrier of sorts.
Connect with the author: Website
KATHRYN KELLY and the Era of Prohobition
It was the era of Prohibition. Formally known as the Volstead Act and called the “greatest social experiment of modern times” by President Calvin Coolidge, it provided for easy profits to be made by the illegal sale of alcoholic beverages (defined as anything more than one-half of one percent alcohol).
It was during this period that the country was just recovering from World War I—the “War to End All Wars”—and there was created the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 designed to aid farmers in difficult times with federal subsidies and low-interest loans. The Great Depression was devastating the rich and poor alike; and many across the country were waking up to find themselves in the midst of the Dust Bowl. It was a time referred to by historians and journalists as the “Dirty Thirties.”
Images from across the country included long breadlines, make-shift relief camps, protest marches and severe dust storms sweeping over the western plains. This reality, as stark as the images, was only made worse by the stock-market crash in 1929 and the national income fell by almost half. Out of desperation, many turned to activities that were illegal in order to survive. “Public enemies“ such as John Dillinger, the Ma Barker gang, and Bonnie and Clyde, just starting to enter into the consciousness of America, were looked upon more as heroes rather than criminals as they traded gunfire with police and agents from a fledgling Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was in this environment that Kathryn’s mother, Ora, who worked in a grocery store, soon joined her husband in his bootlegging operations in order to make ends meet. For additional income, the couple also rented out rooms to criminals on the run for fifty dollars a night at their ranch near Paradise, Texas.
Wanting to leave the old, weather-beaten farmhouse for a better life, Kathryn left her daughter, Pauline, behind to be taken care of by Ora and Boss along with his five children and, at the age of twenty-nine, married a Texas bootlegger named Charlie Thorne. This was Kathryn’s third marriage, and, like her mother, she soon got involved in the bootleg business, often making the illegal deliveries.
Kathryn Kelly was a woman that had a rough childhood and started out as a bootlegger. Later, with her husband “Machine Gun” Kelly they progress to bank robbery and kidnapping. They kidnapped oilman Charles Urschel they get away with the $200,000 ransom but later are caught and go to court in 1933. This trial was one that J.Edgar Hoover solved and was allowed to be filmed.
This is a great story that follows along Kathryn Kelly’s life but also the rest of her gang. I liked watching how George and her started out with little crimes and progressed. I really liked how Kathryn seemed to be the one to guide George on but then how she tried to turn it around at the trial, trying to play the poor, sweet girl that was forced into everything because of her husband.
I liked reading about the 20’s and 30’s gangsters, especially the women. This is a great story and I think Barbara Casey did a great job with her research and putting the book together. If you are looking for a story about Kathryn Kelly and her husband “Machine Gun” Kelly I recommend you check this book out.
I received this book for free from iRead Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
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