Handsome Harry, or the Gangster’s True Confession
The novel opens on October 16, 1934. “Handsome Harry” Pierpont, the narrator, is to be executed in the morning. In a sort of swaggering jailhouse confession, he wants to set the record straight about his life as a notorious bank robber and member of the John Dillinger gang. What follows are his tales of jailhouse experiences, camaraderie with Dillinger and other gang members, daring breakouts, bold bank robberies, and, finally, their inevitable demise. He also reveals, crudely, the romantic affairs between these reckless men and the women who love them.
The novel is a lively rendition of a self-declared outlaw. Written in a breezy yet effective style, Blake creates a complex character who is an intelligent, fascinating personality, but capable of brutal violence. In one respect, the novel is a story about a likeable rough. It is an oddly enjoyable book and a captivating depiction of the times; it breathes life into the real people that it fictionalizes.