Norco '80 by Peter Houlahan

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 a...

Details Norco '80

TitleNorco '80
Release DateJun 11th, 2019
PublisherCounterpoint Press
GenreNonfiction, Crime, True Crime, History, Mystery

Reviews Norco '80

  • Lori
    This is a remarkable book, the true story of a bank robbery in Norco, California, in Riverside County by five men, some of them religious Christians convinced the end times were coming. Two lived together in a house in Norco where they were digging trenches and fencing the perimeter of their property with barbed wire preparing for marauders to come for their caches of food, weapons and supplies. They were late on the mortgage, owed child support ...
  • OutlawPoet
    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...
  • Debbie Rose
    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
  • Kerri
    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 imp...
  • Donna
    The jaw-dropping account of how 5 bank robbers armed to the teeth with military grade weapons - automatic weapons, homemade bombs, Molotov cocktails, and a samurai sword robbed a bank in the rural town of Norco (Riverside County) California in 1980 and subsequently led police on a wild pursuit. Thousands of rounds were fired during the chase, putting police and civilians in harm's way along the rural roads of Riverside, on the freeway and up into...
  • Kristin
    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-bre...
  • Katie/Doing Dewey
    Summary: A well-written account of a dramatic true crime.This is the story of a 1980 bank robbery in Norco, California. Committed by five men almost on a whim, this poorly planned robbery led to a terrifying car chase and fire fight. The chase was made particularly dangerous by the superior weapons possessed by the robbers. The subsequent trial was a huge spectacle. In several ways, it was less of a foregone conclusion than you might think. The ...
  • Kathleen
    The blame begins with the huge eruption of Mount St. Helens. George Wayne Smith (age 29) and Chris Haven (age 27) were convinced that the eruption announced the coming rapture as predicted in the Book of Revelations. Their apostolic faith convinced them that the end was near and that they needed to move to the mountains in order to survive the coming chaos. Both of them were ex-military and stockpiled a huge supply of weapons, homemade grenades a...
  • Tom Brennan
    Birthed in a distinctively curious milieu of poverty, survivalism, sign gifts, and eschatology, the story told here is all kinds of fascinating. The planning, the robbery, the pursuit, the capture, and the trial are all given full treatment. Along the way, Houlahan not only holds our interest but builds it. The characters described become old friends and foes to us. It is the kind of book where you cannot help but keep saying, "Wow!" to yourself ...
  • Chaz
    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 ...
  • Brad
    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.
  • Carmen
    My GODI read this book in one 6 hour sitting. I simply couldn’t...and wouldn’t...put it down. The pace is mind boggling and the author does a great job of keeping the relevant but not getting bogged down during the trial portion (a la Errol Morris) and wraps it up tidily. There are a few slips from fact into opinion, especially in his attempt to defend Painter. Painter was fired appropriately and did do a great disservice to professional wome...
  • Ashley
    Interesting story, but gets a bit bogged down in the details of the police chase. Overall, very enjoyable
  • Shannon A
    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 a...
  • Brandt
    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 ...
  • Ken Heard
    I was bogged down at first by Peter Houlahan's writing style in the first third of the book. He took massive author liberties in assuming what the robbers said and thought while planning their heist and during the actual robbery. There's an eff-load of cursing in their thoughts. Maybe it was a way to show the excessiveness of the 1980s lifestyle (think Scarface, the Brian DePalma movie featuring Al Pacino that captured with brilliant satire the e...
  • J. F.
    Short reading notes: Norco '80 by Peter HoulahanNorco '80, the "most spectacular bank robbery in American history" is an event no one has ever heard of but was purportedly a pivotal point in the militarization of police forces in America.When superimposed against, for instance, the United California Bank $30 million robbery in 1972, readers may feel they've been set-up for a bit of an exaggeration.The "gang", a hodgepodge of friends and neighbors...
  • Ben
    An interesting true crime story about a bank robbery in California filled the news when the robbers began a shoot with law enforcement officers. The robbers, heavily armed with multiple guns, home-made grenades and nail bombs, started a shoot out that lasted for days and spread into the high desert. The author , Peter Houlihan, does an excellent job covering the young felons -to-be personalities and motivations, and does the same with many of the...
  • Susan (aka Just My Op)
    This story of the spectacular and deadly 1980 bank robbery and subsequent chase is certainly interesting. And very detailed – perhaps a little too detailed for me. While the story was interesting, that didn't keep it from dragging in places.I did like that background was given on quite a few of the people involved, which helps me understand actions and decisions better. In the epilogue, we're told what has happened to key players, and I appreci...
  • John Wood
    An amazing account of a bank heist that couldn't have gone more wrong. The robbers mixed drinking, doping and apocalyptic survivalist beliefs and came up with a plan. Horrible mix! They were armed for Fort Knox and didn't have any backup plan or checklist to assess whether or not to go ahead. The author offers a riveting account of the whole ordeal from planning thru sentencing. The robbers had all sorts of automatic weapons, homemade bombs, and ...
  • Lisa Cobb Sabatini
    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 interpla...
  • Megan
    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...
  • Thomas Kelley
    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 ...
  • Joe Cosentino
    Wow! All in all a really wild ride and I think an important read to provide historical context around timely issues of militarization of police, PTSD and its impact on police efficacy, and gun control more broadly. The first third (~150 pages) recounts a 40 minute bank robbery and subsequent chase and firefight in harrowing detail. This is both exhilarating and exhausting, but a true achievement in writing nonetheless. The rest of the book outlin...
  • Downward
    a book bifurcated by an unbelievably high octane and violent bank robbery and chase and the death penalty trial aftermath, Norco 80 is at its most interesting when it traces the effect of violence on those who engage in it. we watch police officers lives fall apart because of the ptsd of gun violence and we watch America react by arming our police more heavily. this could have been a much much more political book, but you get the sense that the p...
  • Pete Cockram
    This definitely not a how to book. The bank robbers are the most inept psychopaths and talentless losers imaginable. The lawyers that defended them are bubbling idiots. The cops that chased them made some horrible mistakes resulting in injury and death. But the account is told masterfully and about as thoroughly as the genre allows. I thought the inclusion of a chapter on pstd in the police was well placed. For me the futility of seeking the deat...
  • Bryan
    This book starts with background. Typical beginnings. In the middle is the robbery. It’s probably one hundred pages of action. One hundred pages to tell about twenty minutes from the first step into the bank to the high speed chase after. Told from multiple viewpoints. The robbers, the hostage, the cops and others. You’re on the road with them. In the police car. In the helicopter. Every vantage point is told. The action is non stop. The seco...
  • Jason Allison
    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 wher...
  • Martha
    Damn this is good. Things run together at times -- because that's what happened, not because of writer failings -- but Houlahan does a remarkable job of telling a harrowing story with immense sensitivity and respect for all involved, no matter their roles or attitudes. The fact that this is his first book makes it even more impressive, as does the patience and determination with which he approached the story, eventually succeeding in his goal to ...
  • Matt Chic
    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, bu...