When Marshall Ratliff dressed like Santa Claus to pull a Christmas-time heist, he thought it would be easy. Unfortunately for him, when the citizens of Cisco heard Santa was robbing a bank, they came running – with loaded guns in hand! But can you blame them? In 1927, the only way to earn the $5000 Dead Bank Robber Reward was to kill a bandit while the crime was in progress.
This bungled bank robbery led to a wild shootout and a getaway with two little girls as hostages. And that is only the beginning! Tui Snider’s true-crime tale reads like a comedy of errors as the consequences of the Santa Claus Bank Robber’s actions escalate to include a botched car-jacking, one of the biggest manhunts in Texas history, and a jailbreak leading to a deadly conclusion. Meanwhile, it’s up to readers to decide whether or not a mysterious blonde helped these gangsters escape. And if so, did she get away with murder?
I received a copy of this book for free. This is my honest and thoughtful review.
After having the opportunity to read and review Tui Snider’s PARANORMAL TEXAS, I couldn’t wait to start this one! As a fan of her casual writing style and the true crime genre, I was looking forward to finding out more about a rather obscure mystery featuring a robbery orchestrated by a man dressed as Santa Claus!
“As a writer, I’m always on the lookout for offbeat stories and overlooked places.”
From the very beginning, the author draws you in with her masterful ability to spin an entertaining story. The author’s discovery of this bank heist that led to the West Texas lynching of Santa Claus was by chance, but unraveling the truth behind such an absurd sounding event could only have been done within her deft storytelling hands. You’ll not only learn about the key players of the heist and their motivations, but you’ll learn more about life within Wild West Texas as well as receive a play by play account of the chaotic nature of the actual event and its aftermath. While this motley crew of thieves were more focused on their greed rather than on the potential for any tragic outcomes, readers will be haunted by the extraordinary lengths the ringleader, Marshall Ratliff, took to save his own life. If you’ve seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, let’s just say that McMurphy has nothing on Ratliff!
“Keep this in mind as the tale unfolds.”
I really enjoyed the author’s side commentary on an earlier book about these events entitled THE SANTA CLAUS BANK ROBBERY by A.C. Greene. His account is considered the sole source about this infamous crime, but is in fact a fictionalized version, complete with invented conversations and fake names to “flesh out his narrative.” Snider’s record of events unfolds like a fascinating retelling of a tall tale among friends, but is backed up with every bit of evidence she could secure from courtroom testimony, newspaper archives, and eye-witness interviews. I love her spirited take on Greene’s book, and readers should question how and why some versions become the definitive source. Just because it was written first doesn’t mean it stands the test of time. This happens much more than we think within the true crime genre. Certain topics I have read every book on and watched every show that’s been made, and no two analyses are ever alike. One adds a detail that you would think the others should have mentioned, so now you start to question the whole thing! Snider continues to search for more information because even she doesn’t believe that the mystery is completely solved. And no true crime book by a travel author would be complete without a list of places of interest that you can visit that all relate to the bank robbery.
My only issue with the overall presentation of the story was having so many subheadings within chapters. This seems to definitely be a style choice in order to simplify the presentation of so much detailed information; however, sometimes I felt that they weren’t even necessary and took me out of the building tension that was developing within the narrative. Personal preference aside, this is an engrossingly objective and enthusiastic investigation that will add something a little different to your holiday reading!
Tui Snider is an award-winning writer, speaker, photographer, and musician specializing in offbeat sites, overlooked history, cemetery symbolism, and haunted lore. As she puts it, “I used to write fiction, but then I moved to Texas!” Tui lectures frequently at universities, libraries, conferences, and bookstores.This fall, she will speak about the Great Airship Mystery of 1897 at this year’s UFO Congress and teach a course on Understanding Cemetery Symbols at Texas Christian University. She also shares weekly info-videos based on her research at her YouTube channel. Snider’s writing and photography have been featured in a variety of media outlets, including WFAA TV, Coast to Coast AM, LifeHack, Langdon Review, the City of Plano, Wild Woman Waking, Shades of Angels and many more. She has several more books in progress.