29 January 2012

Book Review: Wanted: Gentleman Bank Robber by Dane Batty

Title: Wanted: Gentleman Bank Robber
Subtitle: The True Story of Leslie Ibsen Rogge, One of the FBI's Most Elusive Criminals
Author: Dane Batty
Publisher: Nish Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-615-2684-5-3
Format: Paperback
211 pages
Genre: Non-fiction, Biography
Source: Author

Wanted: Gentleman Bank Robber by Dane Batty is a fascinating true crime biography. As the book's subtitle states, this is The True Story of Leslie Ibsen Rogge, One of the FBI's Most Elusive Criminals. The book reveals how Leslie Rogge turned to a life of crime, starting with hot-wiring cars when he was a teenager, and soon progressing to his favourite "work" - robbing banks. Incredibly, his crime spree lasted for twenty years during which he robbed nearly thirty banks. The book explains how he was so successful that he was able to lead an adventure-filled life while evading capture until ultimately, he was compelled to surrender.

Dane Batty's book is a very personal one because the infamous criminal is his uncle. The author explains in the introduction that he based his book on letters that Leslie Rogge wrote to his sister (Dane's mother) over the years. The letters provided the author with an abundance of details about the crimes that his uncle committed as well as stories about his incredible adventures. The author also interviewed his uncle in prison. It all seems too far-fetched to be true but the author verified everything through newspaper articles and court reports, as well as talking to people who were involved with his uncle Les's escapades.The result is a candid account of how Leslie Rogge committed his numerous crimes, as well as stories about his exciting life style, and wild hair-raising adventures.

The author decided to present his uncle's story as if Leslie is telling it.This use of the first-person point of view is a bit strange since the book is a biography, not an autobiography. However, it does seem to work. When necessary, the author inserts an occasional comment to provide more details or to insert a comment from Judy (Les's common-law wife) about an incident she recalled. The author also includes an assortment of (black and white) photographs of Les and Judy.

Les explains the tricks he would use to rob banks such as always choosing a bank with female employees because he figured (quite rightly) that they wouldn't dare try to stop him. He was called a "gentleman" bank robber since he didn't use a gun.The implied threat was enough to get results.

With the money obtained from his robberies, Les and Judy led a very exciting life indeed, constantly on the move but enjoying themselves immensely.They even went sailing to the Bahamas and Mexico. Some of the situations they
would get into were very funny indeed. And when a situation would turn serious, he would frequently turn to his knowledge of how things (cars, boats, planes) work mechanically - a talent which turned out to be useful for a bank robber on the run.

Wanted: Gentleman Bank Robber is the story of a very intelligent criminal who managed to use simple but ingenious methods to commit all his crimes. His outrageous exploits add up to a very entertaining read although the way it's presented is a bit confusing at times. It's not always clear what year the events are taking place because the stories are a bit disjointed.That said, I did enjoy reading it. It's a very unusual biography. I can see why it won the 2011 Reviewers Choice Award and Pinnacle Book Achievement Award. It's also a finalist for the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

I'm grateful to the author, Dane Batty, for sending me a copy of his book to review. If you like to read biographies, and/or you are fascinated by how the criminal mind works, you will enjoy reading Wanted: Gentleman Bank Robber.

No comments:

Post a Comment