COPYRIGHT © 2016 PETER HOULAHAN. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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NORCO '80

"NORCO '80 makes meticulous research and devotion to the truth fuse with suspense and excitement until the reader is right there, a witness to this guns-blazing account of a crime that changed American law enforcement." --Joseph Wambaugh

At 3:30 p.m. on May 9, 1980, five masked
and camouflaged men led by an apocalyptic anarchist named George Wayne Smith attempted a takeover style bank robbery of
the Security Pacific National Bank in the tough and dusty little town of Norco, 50 miles from downtown Los Angeles.  Riverside County Sheriff's deputies responding to the scene were showered with gunfire from an escaping band of robbers armed with high-powered rifles, thousands of rounds of ammunition and improvised explosive devices launched from the barrels of their shotguns.  For close to an hour, a running gun battle blazed through the streets of Norco, onto a crowded interstate
and into the mountains above Los Angeles.  With a washed out road blocking their escape route, the desperate criminals abandoned
their vehicle, savagely ambushed dozens of pursuing cop cars and then, with darkness falling and SWAT teams moving in, the robbers vanished into the rugged canyons of Mt. Baldy.

Over the course of a single summer, four families in a quiet suburban neighborhood descend into the violent and sordid worlds of rape, murder, racial hate crime and child pornography.  While originally victims of chance and circumstance, it is the flawed personalities of the characters themselves that send them hurtling toward humiliation and destruction.  Jealousy and hatred, ambition and greed, love and lust and their dreams and disappointments all drive them to make bad decisions, compromise their principles and betray their neighbors.  The indomitable forces of sensationalist media, racial politics and the criminal justice system soon take over, sweeping their personal plights into the national spotlight, threatening to destroy their lives and tear apart the entire town of Down River.

"In the darkness of the motel room he sat in the chair, lit a cigarette and watched the headlights from the highway come through the curtains like a searchlight. A truck came by and the girl lifted her head from the pillow and searched the room with the look of someone used to waking up in strange places He watched her in the rising and falling glow of his cigarette and tried not to think about bleached bones and Mexican prisons and all the things that could go wrong smuggling twenty-five women and children across a homicidal desert."

 

– From “The Curve of the Earth”