Manhunt (pt.1) 

"The most dangerous man in America." That was how J. Edgar Hoover once described George Kelly Barnes, aka "Machine Gun" Kelly. Better, however, to end that quote with a question mark, because Kelly, in fact, never shot anybody. But in 1933, Kelly (a bootlegger, then bank-robber) and his wife Kathryn were indeed wanted by every G-man in the country after the couple kidnapped an Oklahoma oil man and got away with $200,000 in ransom money.

The hunt for Kelly, who grew up in Memphis, and the capture of Kelly, who was nabbed in Memphis, may be a matter of American manhunt history.

But it's the stuff of great storytelling in the hands of author Ace Atkins, whose latest novelization of a true-crime story, Infamous (Putnam), follows Kelly and Kathryn and the events leading up to and after the Oklahoma kidnapping. That's 56 days the couple spent on the road fleeing the law and 20,000 miles traveled — Kelly providing the brawn; Kathryn, from Saltillo, Mississippi, providing the brains (and the good looks and the smart mouth and a craving for notoriety). She was, Atkins told the Flyer, a novelist's dream: "I'll never have a character I enjoyed writing as much as I did Kathryn Kelly." And as for her big lug, George:

"I don't think Kelly was a weak person," Atkins said. "I don't think he was a stupid person. But he was not a bloodthirsty criminal. I think Kelly would have been fine just being a bootlegger. But he really is one of the great Memphis characters: an average, good-time, wealthy frat boy who went to Central High."

Who went on to make it onto every front page in America before landing in Alcatraz — and inside the pages of Infamous.

Ace Atkins discussing and signing copies of "Infamous," Davis-Kidd Booksellers, Monday, April 26th, 6 p.m

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Blogs

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Politics and the Movies 2: Citizen Kane

News Blog

Pets of the Week

Politics Beat Blog

The Memphis Flyer Podcasts from the DNC

Music Blog

Metal in Memphis: Three Days of Thrash

Beyond the Arc

Grizzlies announce 2016 preseason schedule

News Blog

State Official Lauds City's New Financial Direction

Hungry Memphis

Relevant Roasters To Become French Truck Coffee

News Blog

Bike Share Demos Happening This Week

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Leonard Gill

Readers also liked…

ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2016

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation