Handsome Harry

Handsome Harry

by James Carlos Blake

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Overview

Harry Pierpont and John Dillinger were die-hard and deadly partners who made national headlines with their daring bank hold-ups and gun battles — and they had a lot of laughs while they were at it. They were known as the Dillinger Gang but at its heart was "Handsome Harry" Pierpont — tough, fearless, intelligent, and sworn to live by no law but his own. Presented as his intimate "confessions," Harry's story takes us from his teenage days as a small-time crook to his fateful meeting with the equally young Dillinger to the pinnacle of his notoriety, and to his final hours in the penitentiary death house.

Crafted in James Carlos Blake's signature style of fast-paced violence, sizzling sex, and darkly raucous humor, Handsome Harry re-creates a thrilling chapter from the chronicles of American crime.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060554798
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/18/2005
Edition description: 1ST
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 684,355
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.72(d)

About the Author

James Carlos Blake is the author of nine novels. Among his literary honors are the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Southwest Book Award, Quarterly West Novella Prize, and Chautauqua South Book Award. He lives in Arizona.

Read an Excerpt

Handsome Harry
A Novel

Chapter One The Joints

It was grand.

Every single time it was grand. I loved the moment when you announce the stickup and everything suddenly goes brighter and sharper and the world seems to spin faster. You show them the gun and say hand it over and there's no telling what's going to happen in the next tick of the clock.

I always expected somebody to say Not on your life, Mac, and go for his piece, but it never happened — not counting the time I told the sheriff to hand over John. It never happened with money. They always handed over the money. That was the easy part. Then you had to get away. That's when things sometimes became very intense indeed, and the notion of present moment took on meanings you felt in your blood.

I've never understood how somebody could simply hand it over and leave it at that. If somebody ever stuck a gun in my face and said give me the money, I'd say sure thing — and then the minute the guy took his eyes off me I'd yank out my piece and pop him. Any man who doesn't keep a gun handy to protect himself and what's his is a fool. Deeds and titles and bills of sale be damned, nobody really owns anything in this world except what he can keep others from taking away, and I mean robbers, bankers, judges, or government agents.

Even if I didn't have a gun on me and somebody tried to hold me up, as soon I saw a chance to jump him I'd do it. I'd let him have it with whatever was at hand — a chair, a bottle, a fork. I'd go at him fists, feet, and teeth.

You can't let a guy rob you without putting up a fight. It isn't self-respecting.

***

Even before I went to the joint for the first time I'd stolen so many cars I'd lost count. It was a snap. I swiped my first when I was sixteen — a spanking new Model T roadster, a nifty little thing. A pal named Eddie Rehnquist and I went rambling in it all over three counties before it somehow ended up in the Wildcat River. After that first one, whenever I needed a car to get somewhere, I'd pick one out and take it. If I had a date with some special girl I wanted to impress, I'd grab a Packard or a Buick or a Cadillac, something classy, even though fancy cars were easier for the cops to track down.

Like the Packard I was driving when I had my first close call with a stolen car. It was the same shade of smoky yellow as the hair on the honey snugged up beside me and saying she wished her friends could see her now. Then a cop car came up behind us and turned on its flash. I'd snatched the Packard a few hours earlier on the other side of town but had been in too much of a hurry to swap the plates. The girl took a gander at the cops and asked me if we were speeding. I said we are now — and floored the accelerator and we barreled past a stop sign, just barely avoiding a collision. We went tearing through the streets, making lefts and rights that had us leaning one way and then the other. The girl was shrieking and citizens were gawking from the sidewalks. When I didn't see the cops in the mirror any more I slowed down and made a nice easy turn and stayed under the speed limit for a few blocks so we wouldn't attract further notice, then pulled into an alley and stopped. The girl was crying so hard she could hardly breathe. I gave her my handkerchief and a kiss on the ear, then got out and hopped over a fence and made myself scarce. The next day's newspaper carried a report about the chase. The cops had found the Packard a few minutes after I amscrayed, the girl still sitting in it and bawling her eyes out. She ratted me right away, telling them I was Len Richardson, which was the name I'd given her, and that she'd known me for only an hour, which was true. The report included a photograph of her in the backseat of the police car, her face turned directly toward the camera. She didn't seem to be wishing her friends could see her now.

Not that I ever needed a fancy car to get a girl's attention. My looks could always do the trick. My mother said that the minute she laid eyes on my newborn self, on my fair hair and baby blues, she knew I'd never lack for female notice. She was right.

However, every jewel has its flaw, and in the interest of total honesty I have to confess that mine was in my feet. I was born with the second and third toes on each foot grown together. The toe tips were small but distinct and each one had its own nail, but there was only a bare hint of a groove where the toes should have separated from each other. Siamese toes, Red Hamilton would call them. My parents never made much of this abnormality and so neither did I, nobody did — until one summer day in Muncie when I was fifteen and a bunch of us were playing baseball in a park by the river.

I was playing barefoot like always because I could run faster without shoes. And this kid named Sorenson, whom I'd seen around but didn't know very well, suddenly points at my feet and hollers Hey, you guys, look here! Look at the freak!

Handsome Harry
A Novel
. Copyright © by James Blake. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Table of Contents

October 16, 19341
IThe Joints5
IIThe Breaks78
IIIThe Sprees154
IVThe Falls264
October 17, 1934303
Author's Note305

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Handsome Harry 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just wanted to start out by saying that I loved this book. When I picked it up in our library I was kind of like 'Handsome Harry, pshhh what kind of name is that?' Well I started reading the description on the cover and I thought, 'Hey this could be interesting.' because I have always loved reading about gangsters from the thirties and forties such as Al Capone. I put off reading it for a few days, but one day I picked it up right before bed. I immediately fell in love with it from the first word. You also fall in love with Harry. He is charming and that bad boy part of him makes your heart melt. This book has everything you want in it. Mystery, drama, love, controversy, everything. In his early years he isn't that good of a kid. He starts fights and it just gets worse as he gets older. When you read this book you will die to know what is going to happen next. Up until the last second it will put you at the edge of your chair. I did however get really sad at the ending, but to know the ending you must read it. All the characters are really interesting and I loved hearing about their pasts and how they all came to be friends and acquaintances. I also enjoyed how they were mostly like brothers and would do anything for each other. One thing I didn't like though was how you knew the ending even before it started, but I oblige you to read this book. I also would like to read more from this author.
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