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One of NPR's Best Books of the Year
"Gripping. . . R]eads like a crime novel in the best way possible. . . Norco '80 is a fascinating true-crime account that seems likely to be one of the best nonfiction books of the year." --NPR
" An] alarming account of a bank heist that rocked the country in 1980. . . For a first-time writer, Houlahan sure knows how to dramatize a scene. His cinematic treatment of the robbery itself reads like wildfire, the fatal shootout with the police ends in colorful chaos, and the huge manhunt through San Bernardino National Forest conducted by 'Hunt & Kill Teams' is a nail-biter." --The New York Times Book Review
Norco '80 tells the story of how five heavily armed young men--led by an apocalyptic born-again Christian--attempted a bank robbery that turned into one of the most violent criminal events in U.S. history, forever changing the face of American law enforcement. Part action thriller and part courtroom drama, Norco '80 transports the reader back to the Southern California of the 1970s, an era of predatory evangelical gurus, doomsday predictions, megachurches, and soaring crime rates, with the threat of nuclear obliteration looming over it all.
In this riveting true story, a group of landscapers transformed into a murderous gang of bank robbers armed to the teeth with military-grade weapons. Their desperate getaway turned the surrounding towns into war zones. When it was over, three were dead and close to twenty wounded; a police helicopter was forced down from the sky, and thirty-two police vehicles were destroyed by thousands of rounds of ammo. The resulting trial shook the community to the core, raising many issues that continue to plague society today: from the epidemic of post-traumatic stress disorder within law enforcement to religious extremism and the militarization of local police forces.