- Under Penalty of Death
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Under Penalty of Death
The Untold Story of Machine Gun Kelly's First Kidnapping
Published by: Red Lightning Books
An FBI cover-up spanning nearly a century. A victim and his family sworn to secrecy. Machine Gun Kelly's first kidnapping, a crime that changed America before it was swept under the rug of history.
Under Penalty of Death: The Untold Story of Machine Gun Kelly's First Kidnapping brings to light for the first time the long-forgotten (and twice covered up) tale of the 1930s kidnapping that saved America from itself. In January 1932, Howard Arthur Woolverton, a wealthy industrialist in South Bend, Indiana, was kidnapped by Kelly and his gang. While no one was killed, the crime—occurring just six weeks before the Lindbergh kidnapping—nevertheless proved a watershed event, gripping the imagination of terrified Americans everywhere. The combined fallout of the two kidnappings helped usher in the federal law that shut down America's professional kidnapping industry for good. However, today Woolverton's name is forgotten, his story erased from public memory as if it had never happened. But why the cover-up? How did Woolverton quash the first investigation? Why did J. Edgar Hoover and his "G-Men" impose their own wall of silence? And how does it all connect with a bloody 1933 FBI screwup at a train station in Kansas City?
Drawing on a buried federal statement, family archives, extensive research through period newspaper accounts, and interviews with those few who still remember, Under Penalty of Death: The Untold Story of Machine Gun Kelly's First Kidnapping exposes intrigue and collusion in the era of gangsters, rampant crime, and the Great Depression.
Kevin Meredith worked as a reporter, editor, photographer, and columnist at newspapers in Hillsborough, North Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, where he covered local politics, education, business, crime, and, when necessary, the weather. After seven years in journalism, he received a business degree and has since earned his keep in marketing, public relations, and technology sales. He is married and the father of three adult sons.
"Gangsters, lawmen, and wealthy businessmen; their stories collide in this historically fascinating book by Kevin Meredith. Meredith's research is impeccable, and Under Penalty of Death is a terrific read with many facts never revealed before."~Bart L. Largent, author of George "Machine Gun" Kelly: The Complete Story of His Life, Crimes, & Death
"Admirably researched and handsomely written, this account of the January 1932 kidnapping of South Bend businessman Howard Woolverton and its subsequent investigation proves the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction. On the surface a riveting "who-dunnit" mystery, it inexorably draws the reader deeply into the crime-ridden era of the Great Depression. Wonderful storytellers, Meredith and Hendry provide all the intricacy and intrigue we might expect from a best-selling crime novel but in the form of first-rate history."~Gene Sessions, Brady Presidential Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Weber State University
"The story of Howard A. Woolverton's kidnapping came as a shock to me at 11 while reading a book about the FBI. Even 30 years after the event the story was still taboo for discussion in the family. Kevin Meredith's wonderfully detailed account of the kidnapping brings to light many of the heretofore missing details."~Hugh Woolverton, great nephew of Howard A. Woolverton
Listen to Kevin's interview with the Most Notorious podcast.