American Outlaws: The Life and Legacy of Baby Face Nelson

ISBN: 9781986038126

America has always preferred heroes who weren't clean cut, an informal ode to the rugged individualism and pioneering spirit that defined the nation in previous centuries. The early 19th century saw the glorification of frontier folk heroes like Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. After the Civil War, the outlaws of the West were more popular than the marshals, with Jesse James and Billy the Kid finding their way into dime novels. And at the height of the Great Depression in the 1930s, there were the "public enemies", common criminals and cold blooded murderers elevated to the level of folk heroes by a public frustrated with their own inability to make a living honestly.

The man who became Public Enemy Number One after the deaths of John Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd was Lester Joseph Gillis, whose alias "George Nelson" eventually gave way to the nickname "Baby Face Nelson". Despite the almost playfully innocent nickname, and the fact that he was not as notorious as two of his partners in crime, Dillinger and Floyd, Baby Face Nelson was the worst of them all.

In an era where the outlaws were glorified as Robin Hood types, Baby Face was a merciless outlier who pulled triggers almost as fast as he lost his temper.

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