“Kalteis breathes life into these fearless, larger-than-life fugitives.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review
Meet Depression-era newlyweds Bennie and Stella. He’s reckless, she’s naive. Longing for freedom from tough times, they rob a bank, setting off a series of events that quickly spin out of their control
Under an Outlaw Moon is based on the true story of Depression-era bank robbers Bennie and Stella Mae Dickson. She’s a teenage outsider longing to fit in. He’s a few years older and he’s trouble. They meet at a local skating rink and the sparks fly.
They marry and Stella dreams of a nice house with a swing out back, while Bennie figures out how to get enough money to make it happen. Setting his sights on the good life, he decides to rob a bank. Talking Stella into it, he lays out his plan and teaches her to shoot. The newlyweds celebrate her 16th birthday by robbing a local bank.
They pull it off, but the score is small, and Bennie realizes the money won’t last long, so he plans a bigger robbery. What lays ahead is more than either of them bargained for. After J. Edgar Hoover finds out they crossed state lines, he declares them public enemies number one and two — wanted dead or alive. So much for the good life. The manhunt is on, and there’s little room for them to run.
About the author
Dietrich Kalteis’s short stories have been published widely, and his screenplay Between Jobs was a finalist in the 2003 Los Angeles Screenplay Festival. Kalteis lives in West Vancouver, British Columbia. This is his first novel.
- Winner, The Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence
Excerpt: Under an Outlaw Moon: A Novel (by (author) Dietrich Kalteis)
“Not much to it really, you go in and you point a gun. Doesn’t matter about your age. But, if we’re not of the same mind, I won’t mention it again, just put it right out of my head. Find a new way to go.”
“Just a lot to take in. One minute you’re making an honest woman of me, next one you got me robbing a bank.”
“Well, maybe so, but the way I figure it, a man with a wife’s got to have ambition.”
“And I can see you got plenty of it, boxing your way through law school, but, come on, just look how they ended up, those two.” Still thinking he might be joking with her. “I mean, you’ve run into trouble and paid the price …”
“Actually more of it than I told you.” Telling her he did six years for the Missouri bank job. “Learned from my mistakes, and I learned from some of the pros in the joint too.”
“Pros who got arrested.”
“See, the way I see it, old Clyde got a couple things right, one thing he was a V8 man, figured Ford was the most reliable car on the road. But, guess he got a couple of other things the wrong way around. Sure you want to hear?”
“Well, what they did, him and Bonnie, they swung in a circle skirting the edges of a couple of states, taking advantage of the state-line rule, you know the one?”
“Bank robbers got rules, huh?”
“Rule being lawmen from one state can’t give chase in another. A good lawyer’d get you off in a minute.”
“Okay, but how come a Ford?” She was having fun with him now.
“Well, Clyde loved his Ford V8. Even wrote and told old Henry Ford so. Said ‘what a dandy car you make, Henry.’ Told him he drove Fords anytime he could get away with one. Faster and free of trouble. Ford’s got all the rest skinned.”
“He really tell him that?”
“Yeah, he did. Although, you ask me, there’s nothing wrong with a good Buick.”
“So, you study the law, and find out how to break it.”
“Figures you’d see it that way, smarty pants.” Bennie turned on his side, looking at her. “See, it was mostly sharp thinking on Clyde’s part, except in the end he put trust in the wrong fella, and maybe didn’t know when to quit. And the cops got to this wrong fellow and set up that ambush.”
“Could have stepped out with their badges and guns and made them stop and give up. Send them to prison.”
“Not how the FBI and the Texas Rangers think. Strikes a nerve with that J. Edgar Hoover as soon as you cross a state line. And that man doesn’t like the hero image some bank robbers get — taking from the rich, giving to the poor. Why he likes to paint them as public enemies.”
“That what you want to be, a public enemy?”
“Like I said, if you don’t want to do it, we don’t need to talk on it.”
“Well, maybe I need to think on it. Now you gonna just keep on talking or what?”
“Kalteis breathes life into these fearless, larger-than-life fugitives. This is a delightful treat for historical crime fiction enthusiasts.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Things I love about this book. Kalteis’s legendary writing style. He spins us around his short, clipped phrases and keeps us wanting more … The personalities of the characters shine in the dialogue.” — Ottawa Review of Books
“For anyone interested in Depression-era history, Under an Outlaw Moon will prove enjoyable … What really brings the story — and the Dicksons’ relationship — to life is the cheeky, rapid-fire dialogue between them; their repartee is as good as anything out of an old movie.” — Winnipeg Free Press
“One could dismiss this book as another Bonnie & Clyde story — but not so. Bennie and Stella Mae Dickson are a different kettle of crime entirely. It may be mythology, but Bonnie & Clyde are portrayed as hardened criminals. What is different and engaging in Kalteis’s tale is the simplicity of the characters and their backgrounds.” — The British Columbia Review