California kidnappers

Ever found yourself pondering all the kidnappings that occurred in 1920s and ’30s in California? Not particularly? But in The California Snatch Racket: Kidnappings During the Prohibition and Depression Eras, James R. Smith and W. Lane Rogers remind us that kidnappings happened regularly, so much so that it became a state capital crime in 1933. Driven by greed, egoism and sheer stupidity, kidnappers snatched businessmen, wives, young people—even a priest. Typically, things didn’t end well. No surprise there. The book quotes extensively from contemporary newspapers; given their standard over-the-top hyperbole and sanctimonious editorializing, it’s like looking at Fox News DNA—a digression, which, unfortunately, is a book drawback: long-winded tangents abound. Its worst transgression is echoing bygone press prose. There’s a reason people don’t write like that anymore. Regardless, it’s worth perusing to see what challenged people do in challenging times. It ought to be mandatory reading for today’s bankers.