The True Story of the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History
By Peter Houlahan
About the BookNorco ’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 and part courtroom drama, Norco ’80 transports the reader back to the Southern California of the 1970s, an era of predatory evangelical gurus, doomsday predictions, megachurches, and soaring crime rates, with the threat of nuclear obliteration looming over it all.
A group of landscapers transforms into a murderous gang of bank robbers armed to the teeth with military-grade weapons. Their desperate getaway turned the surrounding towns into war zones. When it was over, three were dead and close to twenty wounded; a police helicopter was forced down from the sky, and thirty-two police vehicles were destroyed by thousands of rounds of ammo. The resulting trial shook the community to the core, raising many issues that continue to face society today: from the epidemic of post-traumatic stress disorder within law enforcement to religious extremism and the militarization of local police forces.
PETER HOULAHAN is a freelance writer contributing to a wide range of publications. In his career as an emergency medical technician, he has written a number of articles related to his profession. He holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. A native Southern Californian, Houlahan now lives in Fairfield County, Connecticut.
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, bestselling author of The Onion Field
"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
“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
“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 hairsbreadth 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
"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