George “Machine Gun” Kelly was one of the well known, but curiously now forgotten gangsters of the lawless Midwest in the 1930s. His weapon of choice earned him the colorful nickname and notoriety as Public Enemy Number 1. Ace Atkins was drawn to this larger than life character, however, for the role his erratic wife Kathryn played in his meteoric rise and equally speedy fall.
The two are certainly far from the stereotypical gangster duo one has come to expect. Infamous is a finely crafted historical adventure owing to the author’s keen grasp of building suspense into a story populated with some of the most fascinating characters this side of Elmore Leonard. The tale revolves around Kathryn and George Kelly’s kidnapping of Charles Urschel, a wealthy Southwestern oil baron who is both victim and twisted personality at one and the same time.
The husband and wife kidnappers are a study in contrasts. George Kelly is seemingly challenged by original thought and talented only in consuming alcohol while Kathryn appears to be an intelligent but untrustworthy schemer only concerned with herself and her hardscrabble family. Their up-and-down relationship will leave the reader guessing. Leading the FBI’s pursuit is Gus T. Jones, a lawman who seems to belong in the time of Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid rather than in the Depression in hot pursuit of machine gun carrying outlaws. Oilman Urschel and the criminals the Kellys encounter (principally a bank robber named Harvey Bailey) join with Jones, Kathryn, and George to bring the tale of 1930s lawmen and Public Enemy #1 to life.
I doubt very much any reader will regret riding along with Machine Gun Kelly and his wife on their journey to fame and disaster.