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Kathryn Kelly by Barbara Casey

Kathryn Kelly: The Moll Behind "Machine Gun" Kelly is a biography of the woman who made a career of crime. With a lust for danger, she masterminded the crimes that took her and her husband, and others who included her own mother and stepfather, on a spree across Minnesota, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Texas. Starting with smaller crimes that included bootlegging, smuggling liquor onto an Oklahoma Indian reservation, and other petty crimes, she encouraged her husband, George Barnes aka George Kelly, toward a life of more serious criminal activity that eventually escalated into bank robberies, kidnapping and extortion.

Many believe that it was Kathryn, after giving him a machine gun, who developed George's feared
persona and the name of Machine Gun Kelly. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was even convinced that the two were somehow connected in the Lindbergh kidnapping. Kathryn and Machine Gun Kelly were eventually captured after kidnapping Charles Urschel, a wealthy Oklahoma City oilman, and collecting a $200,000 ransom the largest ransom ever paid at that time.

​Eventually, the two were captured in Memphis, where Kelly had grown up as a boy. During their trial in Oklahoma City, movie cameras were allowed into the courtroom for the first time as curious spectators across the nation watched. Kathryn, while claiming to be an innocent victim in a bad marriage, remained unrepentant, smiling and primping for the cameras, and writing threatening letters to the judge and attorneys assigned to the case as well as her victims.

Convicted in 1933, Kathryn served twenty-five years of her life sentence at FPC Alderson, West Virginia, when in 1958 she was finally released into obscurity. Although much has been written about Machine Gun Kelly, there is very little known about Kathryn.

Through narrative, FBI files, rare quotes from George Kelly's son and other relatives and associates, extensive research, and several photographs, Kathryn Kelly ¬The Moll behind Machine Gun Kelly is the first book ever written about a woman who chose to follow a life of crime during the Prohibition era.

The book is available on Amazon

Meet the author:
Barbara Casey is a partner in Strategic Media Books, and president of the Barbara Casey Agency, representing authors throughout the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Japan. She is also a manuscript consultant and the author of numerous articles, poems, and short stories.

Her award-winning novels have received national recognition, including the Independent Publishers Book Award. Her novel, The House of Kane, was considered for a Pulitzer nomination, and The Gospel According to Prissy, also a contemporary adult novel received several awards including the prestigious IPPY Award for Best Regional Fiction. Her most recent young adult novel, The Cadence of Gypsies, received the Independent Publishers Living Now Award and was reviewed by the Smithsonian for its list of Best Books.

Ms. Casey makes her home on the top of a mountain in northwest Georgia with her husband and three dogs who adopted her: Benton, a hound-mix, Fitz, a miniature dachshund, and Gert, a Jack Russel terrier of sorts.

Connect with the author:   Website

My Take:
Kathryn, named Cleo at birth, grew up in a bootlegger's home and was shuffled around quite a bit during childhood. She grew up to become a manipulative woman, desiring wealth and fame, and choosing a life style of crime to achieve such. She married several times, finally landing a bootlegger and criminal, George Kelly. With her talent of manipulation, she created a larger than life hero out of him and encouraged him in his life of crime, as well as, participated with him. Eventually, they were caught and tried for the kidnapping of a wealthy Oklahoma oilman.

I usually enjoy reading biographies, so I chose this one because it sounded quite interesting. What kind of things go through the mind of a criminal mastermind? Although the book was not totally boring, it was also more factual than a story. It was told kind of as a narrative, including names, dates, and events that had taken place.At first I was hoping that was just a type of introduction to get to know the characters but it continued that way throughout the book. And although now I know more about Kathryn and George than I did previously, I feel like I don't really know much about them other than facts.The book is well researched and did include some interesting photos and quotes of that time period. The book covers most of the facts on Kathryn's story from birth through the years following the trial, noting her life lasted 81 years. Much of what is known about Kathryn is speculation, but Barbara Casey did the best she could putting the pieces together, to let a know a little more about her story and what may have driven her to do the things she did.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from ireadbooktours in exchange for my honest opinion. 


  1. Thank you for taking the time to review my book, KATHRYN KELLY: THE MOLL BEHIND MACHINE GUN KELLY. My best wishes to you and your bloggers.


    1. Barbara, Thank you for stopping by. It was an interesting account of quite a few gangsters I had never heard of.


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