Norco '80
In the spirit of Killers of the Flower Moon and The Onion Field, Norco ’80 is a gripping true crime account of one of the most violent bank heists in US history.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. A group of landscapers transforms 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 trials shook the community to the core, raising many issues that continue to plague society today: from racism and the epidemic of post-traumatic stress disorder within law enforcement to religious extremism and the militarization of local police forces.

Norco '80 Details

TitleNorco '80
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 11th, 2019
PublisherCounterpoint Press
ISBN-139781640092129
Rating
GenreCrime, True Crime, Nonfiction, History, Mystery

Norco '80 Review

  • OutlawPoet
    January 1, 1970
    Oh, this book was all kinds of amazing!Even though I'm from Southern California, I'd never heard of the Norco bank robbery. I figured it was before my time, but my parents hadn't heard of it either. Reading, this, I don't know how we missed it.This is one exciting read. While the author takes some liberties here and there with the feelings of some of our participants (like one dying young man was thinking/feeling), those liberties are logical.The book is well researched, but honestly reads like Oh, this book was all kinds of amazing!Even though I'm from Southern California, I'd never heard of the Norco bank robbery. I figured it was before my time, but my parents hadn't heard of it either. Reading, this, I don't know how we missed it.This is one exciting read. While the author takes some liberties here and there with the feelings of some of our participants (like one dying young man was thinking/feeling), those liberties are logical.The book is well researched, but honestly reads like a movie. I could see people getting shot, feel the whiz of bullets as they narrowly missed other characters, and my heart was pounding like crazy.A fabulous book that inspired me to learn even more about what happened (and more about a serial killer and a cult I'd never heard of before).Excellent!
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  • Debbie Rose
    January 1, 1970
    Evidence Never LiesGiven the evidence available to you, I appreciate you being an impartial writer...WELL DONE.From one who lived it,Debbie RoseInvestigator Asst. to Jeanne Painter
  • Brad
    January 1, 1970
    Norco ‘80 by Peter Houlahan is a nonfiction #BOTM pick. This book tells the story of a bank robbery gone horribly wrong in California in 1980. There is a lot of detail (sometimes too much) about the robbery, the chase and the trial. There is a about the effect on the lives involved, especially for law enforcement. Reads like the author did his research. A good choice if you’re interested in what it was like in the late 70’s/early 80’s.
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  • Chaz
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars really...Quite a story and one that, like most people, I was completely unfamiliar with. I know there is talk of a movie about this, and there really should be.The book is a good read, although it drags a bit in the trial portion... Then again so did the actual trial. But the robbery, shootout, chase, and apprehension... WOW. Just wow. That three people died is both terrible and remarkable.Glad I read it and at times really hard to put down.
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  • Ashley
    January 1, 1970
    Interesting story, but gets a bit bogged down in the details of the police chase. Overall, very enjoyable
  • Kerri
    January 1, 1970
    I received this book as a Goodreads Giveaway. This story provides further proof that truth is stranger than fiction. From the beginning, it engages the reader and doesn't let go; narrative writing at its finest. I lived in the midwest and was in my teens during the time of this crime and trial and I don't remember hearing anything about it, so I was fascinated by the entire tale. It was especially enlightening reading about how this one crime impacted law enforcement, particularly the militariza I received this book as a Goodreads Giveaway. This story provides further proof that truth is stranger than fiction. From the beginning, it engages the reader and doesn't let go; narrative writing at its finest. I lived in the midwest and was in my teens during the time of this crime and trial and I don't remember hearing anything about it, so I was fascinated by the entire tale. It was especially enlightening reading about how this one crime impacted law enforcement, particularly the militarization of it, nationwide.There were several times where I felt completely lost and couldn't keep the moving pieces straight (and I am a careful reader), but that just shows how convoluted the entire episode was from the planning of the crime through the outcome of the trial; that the author could make sense of any of it, and manage to make it into a coherent story, speaks volumes. I can't even imagine what Mr. Houlahan's white board/bulletin board/post-it note tree, or whatever he used to connect the dots, looked like. I highly recommend this book!
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  • Brandt
    January 1, 1970
    So I realize that I have a kind of hardcore ideal of what "histories" should be about and why they should be written (see my review of The Crowded Hour among other histories I have recently read for an idea of what I am talking about.) So when I read Norco '80: The True Story of the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History I found myself at cross purposes--was I reading a history or a true-crime book? Of course the answer was both but I think what I was trying to figure out was if I w So I realize that I have a kind of hardcore ideal of what "histories" should be about and why they should be written (see my review of The Crowded Hour among other histories I have recently read for an idea of what I am talking about.) So when I read Norco '80: The True Story of the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History I found myself at cross purposes--was I reading a history or a true-crime book? Of course the answer was both but I think what I was trying to figure out was if I was going to hold this book to my radical views of what histories should. However, as a fan of the true-crime genre, it was likely that I wouldn't hold this book to my usual standards for histories.For those not familiar with "the most spectacular bank robbery in American history" (as I was not before I read this book), in May of 1980 a bunch of out of work men who believed that either society was going to collapse or the rapture was going to happen armed themselves to the teeth and attempted to rob a bank. They bungled it, however, which lead to a police chase that lead to tragedy. This book not only describes the robbery and chase, but also the trial the followed (and that is a shit-show that has to be read to be believed.) As a true-crime tome, Norco '80 hits all of the true-crime happy buttons. (I now anxiously await the Investigation Discovery documentary of this book) but I think Houlahan has another more subtle reason for writing this book, and that hit my "history" happy buttons as well.As part of the Norco robbery, the robbers ended up killing a police officer named Sheriff Jim Evans. As Houlahan points out in Norco '80, Evans was woefully unprepared for the arsenal that the Norco robbers were carrying, and because of that, and an inability for inter-agency communication once the chase crossed from Riverside County into San Bernadino County, it cost Evans his life. Several times in this book Houlahan returns to the idea that the Norco robbery is the genesis of local law enforcement turning increasingly to more high powered firearms in the execution of their jobs, because the Norco robbers were the forebears to an arms race between those who would break the law and those who would enforce it. After Norco, a local law enforcement agency was not going into the fray underpowered against their adversaries.Unfortunately, Houlahan doesn't speculate as to whether the police militarizing is a good thing. I suspect that he is trying to excuse recent law enforcement excesses which have lead to the deaths of seemingly innocent people, usually minorities. In Houlahan's mind, Norco is what made law enforcement go down this road, and given the stresses of the job and the very real possibility that when someone like Jim Evans went to work he wouldn't come home that night, and as such law enforcement is justified in their current militarized state. Unfortunately, when the police shoot first and ask questions later, kids like Tamir Rice get killed, and so we need to question if massive police firepower is something we actually want. But Houlahan doesn't address this directly--he beats around the bush, leaving this to work more in the "true-crime" genre than the "history" genre. And if what you are looking for is true-crime, Norco '80 is a winner.
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  • Lisa Cobb Sabatini
    January 1, 1970
    I won an Advance Reading Copy of Norco '80: The True Story of the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History by Peter Houlahan from Goodreads.Peter Houlahan takes readers step-by-step through the Norco bank robbery of 1980 and it's aftermath in his book, Norco '80: The True Story of the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History. Introducing all the individuals involved, Houlahan helps readers to understand motivations, the interplay of experience and ideology, and individual viewp I won an Advance Reading Copy of Norco '80: The True Story of the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History by Peter Houlahan from Goodreads.Peter Houlahan takes readers step-by-step through the Norco bank robbery of 1980 and it's aftermath in his book, Norco '80: The True Story of the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History. Introducing all the individuals involved, Houlahan helps readers to understand motivations, the interplay of experience and ideology, and individual viewpoints during the events on both sides of the law. The easy to follow narrative escorts readers through the harrowing robbery and shootouts, and the complicated trial. The book further gives readers insight into into the impetus for the military like arming of police departments across the United States.Norco '80 by Peter Houlahan is a must-read book for fans of true crime.
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  • Megan
    January 1, 1970
    AMAZING story - unfortunately, author isn't the best writer. He isn't bad but with such amazing source material that as far as I know about has never really been written about in book-length, he could have been so much better. Parts of the telling of the crime were really boring and really slow - too much detail about the guns, the bullets, the angles. A re-telling that should not have been boring at all became a little boring. For example, I bet Jeffrey Toobin would have written something amazi AMAZING story - unfortunately, author isn't the best writer. He isn't bad but with such amazing source material that as far as I know about has never really been written about in book-length, he could have been so much better. Parts of the telling of the crime were really boring and really slow - too much detail about the guns, the bullets, the angles. A re-telling that should not have been boring at all became a little boring. For example, I bet Jeffrey Toobin would have written something amazing about this crime. Still, this book is not bad for the story itself. I would actually have preferred a little less about the crime and more about the trial which was nuts. Also, at the end, I felt the wrap-up was a bit poor. Not even sure about where one of the criminals is right now. I can't believe this robbery isn't better known - truly nuts.
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  • Thomas Kelley
    January 1, 1970
    This follows a group of guys which includes two sets of brothers Norco California, May 1980 who is orchestrated by one George Wayne Smith who is a military veteran who believes that the apocalypse is coming the end of the world and in the aftermath the need to be a survivalist because people are going to come and take your guns, your food and anything else to survive. George knows he cannot stay in California and survive but you could survive in Utah or Colorado but you got to have money. This b This follows a group of guys which includes two sets of brothers Norco California, May 1980 who is orchestrated by one George Wayne Smith who is a military veteran who believes that the apocalypse is coming the end of the world and in the aftermath the need to be a survivalist because people are going to come and take your guns, your food and anything else to survive. George knows he cannot stay in California and survive but you could survive in Utah or Colorado but you got to have money. This book after this first couple of chapters are a little slow and then this story takes off mind you this a real event. It is hard to believe that by the time you get mid way through the book it has only covered about 45 minutes in event time. These events help convince police forces that they need to be better armed and the diagnosis of PTSD. The court part of this book is a little slow at times but there is a lot of drama here also. This a definite five star read.
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  • Larry Hamilton
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars. Without knowing anything about the story and reading the subtitle, “... the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History” I expected something on the order of the movie “The Italian Job.” What I found instead were five bungling, inexperienced bank robbers, an out gunned police force and a totally ridiculous, dragged out trail. For the most part I found the meticulous yet excruciating story details to be quite boring and the only thing that sparked my interest was the actual robbe 3.5 stars. Without knowing anything about the story and reading the subtitle, “... the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History” I expected something on the order of the movie “The Italian Job.” What I found instead were five bungling, inexperienced bank robbers, an out gunned police force and a totally ridiculous, dragged out trail. For the most part I found the meticulous yet excruciating story details to be quite boring and the only thing that sparked my interest was the actual robbery and police chase.
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  • Jason Allison
    January 1, 1970
    An exhaustive account of a 1980 California bank robbery gone wrong and the subsequent running gun battle between the perpetrators and police. The story is wild and compelling and Houlahan’s telling is raw and matter of fact. The latter portion of the book recounts the ridiculous trial that followed and conveys to those unacquainted with the legal system how incredibly complicated it can be to satisfactorily recount every detail in an event where bullets fly and decisions happen in fractions of s An exhaustive account of a 1980 California bank robbery gone wrong and the subsequent running gun battle between the perpetrators and police. The story is wild and compelling and Houlahan’s telling is raw and matter of fact. The latter portion of the book recounts the ridiculous trial that followed and conveys to those unacquainted with the legal system how incredibly complicated it can be to satisfactorily recount every detail in an event where bullets fly and decisions happen in fractions of seconds.
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  • Kristin
    January 1, 1970
    Norco ’80 is one hell-raising ride through 1970’s Southern California with an apocalyptic prophet and the prosecutors bent on turning the tables on the policemen involved in the most violent bank heist ever committed on American soil. From the minute you meet the charismatic George Smith and his flunky friend Christopher Harven, you’ll be hanging on for dear life, waiting for the next catastrophe to take your breath away with each heart-breaking turn of the page. It’s part law and part order and Norco ’80 is one hell-raising ride through 1970’s Southern California with an apocalyptic prophet and the prosecutors bent on turning the tables on the policemen involved in the most violent bank heist ever committed on American soil. From the minute you meet the charismatic George Smith and his flunky friend Christopher Harven, you’ll be hanging on for dear life, waiting for the next catastrophe to take your breath away with each heart-breaking turn of the page. It’s part law and part order and it’s outstanding!
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  • Matt Chic
    January 1, 1970
    It was OK. And it was almost too detailed, but not in an interesting and informative way. So while appreciate Houlahan writing in a way that's supposed to put you "in the story" or whatever, I had a hard time buying most of it. Whether it's a meticulous account of every click of every gun or the tons the "dialogue" sans quotes, I just couldn't tell what came from actual fact and what came from his artistic writing licence. Wanted to like this, but it just didn't work for me.
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  • Linda Rae
    January 1, 1970
    What a wild ride! This book grabs you in from the beginning planning phase through to the crime, chase and ultimately the courtroom saga. This is an example of truth being stranger than fiction , no one could make up the absurdity, horror and craziness that happened in Norco. I will say that there is A LOT of detail which sometimes makes the narrative confusing and makes it hard to keep all of the characters straight. Overall, if you like true crime, this book is a must.
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  • Jamie Keck
    January 1, 1970
    Amazing book. It kept the reader right in the action. I learned a lot about guns and the working of the police department. It's amazing how much things have changed in almost 40 years with issues like gun access.
  • Victoria
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you for the ARC of this true crime title. I think I had seen a made-for-TV movie about this bank robbery a long time ago as the general arc of the story was familiar. True crime fans should like this although I was feeling bored/aggravated/disappointed in the courtroom sections, mainly due to the behaviors of those involved.
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  • Jeanne
    January 1, 1970
    Norco ’80 is the true story of one of the most violent and dramatic bank robberies of all time. This well-researched, engaging recounting of what led to this brutal day, and the aftermath, is true crime at its best. Highly recommended.
  • Dawn Giani
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent book and writing. Fast moving and a real page turner. I grew up in Orange County, so there were many locations and events that I remember, and some I’d forgotten which brought back some memories of yesteryear.
  • Dan
    January 1, 1970
    This book covers every aspect of the bank robbery in Norco. From the lives of the criminals, the shooting, to the trial. Highly recommended!
  • Max
    January 1, 1970
    Well written true-crime book.
  • Lindsay Parker
    January 1, 1970
    Amazing true crime story! I love this genre and this book did not disappoint!
  • Rob
    January 1, 1970
    What a fascinating story. Well written and feels like a thriller.
  • Marcus Kaye
    January 1, 1970
    Really great narrative non-fiction. Crazy because its where I grew up and I know all the streets and areas referenced, but would have liked it regardless. Truly wild.
  • Becky
    January 1, 1970
    Gruesome, violent and compelling!
  • Shannon A
    January 1, 1970
    On May 9, 1980, what usually only happens in action-thriller movies came to life in Orange County, California. I don’t usually read true-crime, but Houlahan’s writing pulled me in. While reading this meticulous researched and documented account, I could almost smell the gun powder, hear the cacophony of gunfire making my ears ring and see the dust clear as the largest crime scene in American history came into view. Documented here is how an attempted bank robbery and its subsequent trial would f On May 9, 1980, what usually only happens in action-thriller movies came to life in Orange County, California. I don’t usually read true-crime, but Houlahan’s writing pulled me in. While reading this meticulous researched and documented account, I could almost smell the gun powder, hear the cacophony of gunfire making my ears ring and see the dust clear as the largest crime scene in American history came into view. Documented here is how an attempted bank robbery and its subsequent trial would forever change a town, its people and law enforcement nation-wide. The crime and court case may have been an unbelievable catastrophe, but this book is pitch-perfect.
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  • David Olsen
    January 1, 1970
    If you love true crime, you'll love this book. Also, if you love thrillers you'll love this book. Basically, this is a must-read. Add it to your list.
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