Dillinger Question #7 ~ The Black List

by G.Russell Giradin & William J. Helmer

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Dillinger Question #7 ~ The Black List

Unread postby Liz » Sun Jul 12, 2009 10:17 am

Pg. 184:

The “black list” of those marked for death by the Dillinger gang was in fact mounting rapidly. First and foremost among those targeted by Dillinger was Harold Reinecke, the federal agent who he believed had mistreated Evelyn Frechette. Next in line were Captain Matt Leach and stool pigeon Art McGinnis. Of somewhat lower priority were Sergeant Reynolds of the Stege squad; Emil Wanatka, the proprietor of Little Bohemia; the three deputies who had fatally shot Hamilton near St. Paul; and now those responsible for the death of Tommy Carroll.

pg. 193:

When O’Leary arrived in the evening, Dillinger handed him a slip of paper. It bore the names “Harold H. Reinecke, 5735 Kenmore, Rav. 6369,” and “Melvin H. Purvis, 11 Scott, Sup. 3719.”

“I want you to check up on these addresses and see that they’re right,” Dilllinger told him.

O’Leary placed the paper in his pocket, ostensibly to comply with the request. The next morning he showed it to Piquett.

“Johnnie asked me to check up on a couple of addresses. We can’t have that sort of thing going on.”

Piquett’s eyes opened wide. “I’ll say we can’t.”

The two lost no time in getting to the hideout.

“Art tells me you gave him this paper to check up on some addresses,” Piquett told Dillinger. “Just what are you planning to do, Johnnie?”

“They’re out to kill me, aren’t they? Why should I sit around and wait for it? We’re going to be parked in front of their houses one of these nights and get them before they get us. That’s all.”

“That’s all? Have you gone crazy?”

Dilllinger tilted back in his chair and smiled as the attorney waved his arms and orated in his best courtroom manner.

“Don’t you realize what a stunt like that would mean?” Piquett fairly shouted. “They’d call out the army and place the town under martial law, and hang me from the nearest lamppost. Besides, Purvis has to carry out the orders that are given him.”

“We’ll leave Purvis out of it then, but there’s nothing going to stop me from killing that son of a ----- Reinecke. He pushed Billie around for days without letting her eat or sleep, and smacked her, and then he lied about her in court. Since all that happened he’s been living on borrowed time.”

“You’re not going to kill anybody. Just forget about it. Art and I have gone far enough for you as it is. If you try to pull off a general massacre, I’m not with you any longer, Johnnie.”

“All right, counsel,” said Dillinger glumly. “We’ll let it ride for the time being.”


Were you surprised to read this?

Doesn’t this contradict Dillinger’s public image of being resistant to killing?
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Re: Dillinger Question #7 ~ The Black List

Unread postby Betty Sue » Sun Jul 12, 2009 10:43 am

It certainly does go against his image as not wanting to kill, but I didn't completely buy it. I wavered between thinking it was wishful thinking and that his image wasn't completely deserved. He certainly gave up on it easily. I think I mostly understood his desire to avenge the mistreatment of Billie. He was supposed to be taking care of her, not causing her distress. I think he was very angry about this and would have liked to do some kind of damage to Reinecke. :grr:
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Re: Dillinger Question #7 ~ The Black List

Unread postby trygirl » Sun Jul 12, 2009 10:58 am

I wasn't surprised by the list. Dillinger may not have been a hardened killer but he was also fiercely loyal to his inner circle. He saw these men had wronged him and they deserved to pay for it. Dillinger just didn't believe in hurting innocent people but I believe he could have exacted revenge against some of these fellows, especially against Harold Reinecke. And I guess he didn't view lawmen and snitches as being without malice. Not to mention, Dillinger spent years in prison, and when he got out, started robbing banks. Anyone who takes up this profession is not a push over. But we also have to remember that Dillinger felt corned and powerless. He couldn't help Billy and he was being hunted like a dog. Maybe he was just acting out. There's a dark side in everybody. But Dillinger was more than a public image.
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Re: Dillinger Question #7 ~ The Black List

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Jul 12, 2009 2:43 pm

He certainly had to be tough to survive not only prison but how he lived once he got out. I'm sure there was much more to him than what the public saw in newsreels and photographs. While cultivating his public image he had to live in a rough and dangerous world, he must have had a hard side to him. I agree about his loyalty as well, he looked out for his family and friends. Would he ever have acted on the list? That's hard to say. Given the opportunity, maybe, but he had to spend so much time just trying to survive I think it would have been difficult for him to plan any of it out.
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Re: Dillinger Question #7 ~ The Black List

Unread postby deppaura » Sun Jul 12, 2009 9:17 pm

I guess at the time, of the moment, he was acting like a cornered animal, and probably mostly from the frustration of not being able to help Billie. That tipped his mental scale. And, it just echoes criminal thinking, a particular form of brilliance, gone haywire. It's interesting to observe his motivation and twisted judgement.

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Re: Dillinger Question #7 ~ The Black List

Unread postby nebraska » Sun Jul 12, 2009 9:33 pm

The further this discussion goes, the more confused I get. :banghead: :banghead: :banghead:

I write things down when I am angry or frustrated and it helps relieve the tension. What I write is not necessarily a hit list, but then my life situation is different from Dillinger's. Does writing a hit list serve the same cathartic purpose for a criminal as writing a journal serves for an ordinary person like me? The whole thing seemed out of character to me, and it also seems as if Johnnie was truly serious he wouldn't have gone to Piquette/O'Leary for confirmation. And, he did say "ok, never mind" way to easily. Could this have been Piquette giving a fictional account of Dillinger's frustration? Not true exactly, but illustrative of his internal turmoil?

I am not quite sure what to make of it.

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Re: Dillinger Question #7 ~ The Black List

Unread postby gemini » Sun Jul 12, 2009 9:57 pm

Back to my old thought that Dillinger's mentality was that he was sooner or later going to run out of luck.
As time progressed he kept loosing his friends. At the time of this black list he was living at Jimmy Probascos. It was after Hamilton had died after little Bohemia. Makely and Peirpont were sentenced to death and Russel Clark got life. Tommy Carrol was shot in June, and when Billy was arrested he was pretty upset and probably doing a lot of tough talking. The only one he had left was VanMeter and they had a lot of time to think of revenge while they recovered from surgery.
It says a lot that he didn't kill them but I did wonder when listening to the video of Dillinger's great nephews when he mentioned their intentions of doing one more job, retiring and getting out of the country. Wonder if he thought he would wait and settle his debts before he left and just ran out of time. :perplexed:
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Re: Dillinger Question #7 ~ The Black List

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Jul 12, 2009 10:21 pm

Interesting thoughts all around. Since we are hearing what he said second hand, we have to take into account the teller of the tale's point of view as well, and of course we don't really know what that was. I can see him venting out of frustration at his inability to set things "right".
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Re: Dillinger Question #7 ~ The Black List

Unread postby ladylinn » Mon Jul 13, 2009 10:14 am

At this time, as deppaura said - Dillinger must have felt like a cornered hunted animal. As animals do - people also protect their loved ones. He knew that Reinecke had mistreated Billie and the only way that he could get even was to kill him. Altho Dillinger is not viewed as a "cold blooded" killer - he certainly was not innocent of killing. Also O'Leary and Piquett were looking out for their own skins. They were on the inside - but didn't want any blood on their hands.

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Re: Dillinger Question #7 ~ The Black List

Unread postby RamblinRebel » Tue Jul 14, 2009 12:11 pm

When I read this section I wondered how much of the tale was "enhanced" by Piquette to make himself look good. He takes full credit for talking Dillinger out of doing all these dastardly deeds. Perhaps Piquette was hoping to sway public opinion, or judicial opinion, in his favor. Clearly Dillinger was angry with those on the "list", but I find it hard to believe he would have systematically tried to take them all out one by one. Maybe he would have gone after Reinecke, as he pushed that point in conversation with Piquette. Perhaps Dillinger was just blowing off steam, letting his anger out, and in doing so said he was going to retaliate. I'm not sure, but the account as written just doesn't seem to fit the character.

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Re: Dillinger Question #7 ~ The Black List

Unread postby Liz » Tue Jul 14, 2009 6:32 pm

Interesting answers and good points!

I do think that Piquett could have embellished a tad, RamblinRebel, for his own benefit. I don't think that he was beyond that.

Gemini, I too was wondering what he would have done if he had lived longer. He may have settled his debts and then just split. He said that he would "let it ride for the time being". But time ran out. We'll never know.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.


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