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The True Story of the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History

Simply put, NORCO '80 is one of the best true crime accounts ever written. Harrowing, incisive, and important. But also? A goddamned thrill ride. This is a book you'll read and then talk about for weeks.

––Tod Goldberg, author of Gangsterland

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Turning off Etiwanda onto Holmes, a two-lane road lined with ramshackle houses, double-wides, and animal pens, it suddenly occurred to Deputy Rolf Parkes that he might be seconds away from a battle in which he would be outgunned, outmanned, and utterly alone. Rolf abruptly slowed and pulled his cruiser onto the dirt beside the metal fencing of a horse corral to give him time to consider his options. Before he could make any decisions, the yellow truck appeared, traveling at an ominously slow speed. To Parkes, it did not look like a vehicle fleeing police as much as it did one daring anyone to get close to it. And now it was 150 feet away, headed directly toward him.


At once, three men with rifles simultaneously turned their weapons on Rolf. Bullets ricocheted off the pavement in front of him with a singing sound as they fragmented. Others cracked like bullwhips overhead as they shattered the sound barrier on their way to God knows where. There was the tearing sound of rounds striking his vehicle, ripping through multiple layers of metal, plastic, and glass with a guttural, three-dimensional quality. Fragments lacerated the interior and seats while heavier rounds from George Smith’s .308 passed through one side of the vehicle and out the other. Rolf had been around plenty of guns, but this was like nothing he had ever heard before.


Closing in on him, the truck methodically crossed the dotted line, veering into his lane like a trapper walking up to a snared animal to blow its brains out. The fucking thing seemed to amble, in no hurry at all. These sons of bitches are not trying to get away from me, he thought, they are trying to kill me. He was out of options. In the move of a desperate man willing to put anything between himself and death, Rolf Parkes did the only thing he could think of: he rolled up his side window.

Praise for NORCO '80:

"NORCO 80 somehow 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's readiness for violence in the extreme." 

--Joseph Wambaugh, Best-selling author of The Onion Field.

“There is no doubt that Norco '80 is poised to become a true crime classic. It's a marvel of pacing and information—at times racing ahead like a speeding bullet and others slowing down to provide a perfect panorama of a hair’s breadth moment. Houlahan has left nothing unexamined in his obsessively detailed account of this heist from the emotional, to the logistical, to the spiritual.

Trust me, you're going to want to read every word.”

—Ivy Pochoda, author of Wonder Valley.

“Norco ’80 reads like a pre-apocalyptic nightmare, and it’s all true. Houlahan’s writing is intimate and stark, and the pacing relentless, as it tells the story of a group of young men who robbed a bank to prepare for the end of the world and succeeded in bringing fire and brimstone to one unfortunate small town and the police sworn to protect it. The reader will feel like a witness to these events as they unfold. Be warned—you will not get anything done until this book is done with you.”

—James Renner, author of True Crime Addict.

"As the astonishing mayhem chronicled in this book unfolds, you'll find yourself wondering, How much worse can this situation get? Answer: a lot. Turning the pages, I kept flashing back to the desperate, duck-for-cover urgency of Black Hawk Down. Meticulously reported and artfully written, NORCO ‘80 is an utterly absorbing, unforgettable, and haunting study of how a series of bad decisions can snowball into something truly disastrous."

––Dave Howard, author of Chasing Phil.


Finalist for the 2020 Edgar Award in “Best Fact Crime"

Finalist for the 2020 Macavity Awards for "Best Mystery Nonfiction/Critical"

Finalist for 2019 Dashiell Hammett Prize

NPR - Favorite Books of 2019

Amazon – Best Nonfiction Books of the Month. Best History Books of 2019

New York Times Book Review – 2019 Summer Reads

The Wall Street Journal – Reader’s Pick

CrimeReads –Best True Crime Books of 2019

Junior Library Guild – Gold Standard Selection

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