Do you remember some stories from your childhood which have stuck in your mind? For me, one such was the infamous Lindberg kidnap murder case. I read about it in the 60s, possibly in the Reader’s Digest, though I can’t vouch for that. It made a huge impact on me.
Yesterday when I decided that as a thriller writer K had to be for Kidnap ( overlooking K for Killers) I remembered the Lindbergh kidnap case and decided to have a look at Wikipedia. Memories of what I had read ages ago flooded my mind. With no effort, nearly 50 years later, I still remembered the name of the kidnapper, Bruno Richard Hauptmann.
The case was sensational for those times because of the circumstances and the people involved. Col. Charles A. Lindberg was already a national hero. He had captured the imagination of the world by flying non-stop solo across the Atlantic in 1927 in his single engine monoplane”Spirit of St. Louis”. His son Charles Jr was just 20 months old when he was kidnapped and later killed by Bruno Richard Hauptmann, a German immigrant. This kidnapping led to the passing of what popularly became to be called the Lindbergh Act. This made transporting a kidnap victim across state lines a Federal offence.
That’s how in the many James Hadley Chase novels that I subsequently read with great interest, the FBI or the Feds as they were called typically got involved in kidnap cases. I have yet to come across cases where the kidnappers have been successful. They are usually tracked down by numbered currency notes given as ransom or by mistakes they make irrespective of how well they think they have planned the kidnap. It’s sad but not surprising that in most cases the victim held to ransom is killed. This happens mainly because the kidnappers feel the heat when they are in hiding. Their frustration leads them to kill the victim. At times the victim is killed if he/she is old enough to have seen and remembered the kidnappers.
In one of the James Hadley Chase books , the victim of the kidnap, the heiress Miss Blandish, if I remember correctly, begins to identify herself with her captors. This is an interesting psychological phenomenon. This later became better know following the bizarre case of the kidnap of the millionaire newspaper heiress Patty Hearst by the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974 in Berkeley, California. Some of these thoughts were in my mind and find place in my second novel “Lucky For Some, Thirteen”.
In very rare occasions which are not known to the public, a few victims might have been released after the kidnapper has collected the ransom money. Most kidnappers overestimate their abilities and/or underestimate the intelligence of the law. What looks like a stunning plan when it is described, generally turns out to be far more difficult to execute. I guess the reason why despite all this, so many kidnappings still take place is for that very reason. Some people foolishly think it is the easiest way to make big money-quickly.
In the recent past, it is sad to find that some youngsters have taken to this form of crime like the shocking Patrawala case in Mumbai. Some one should tell them as James Hadley Chase would probably have said “It’s a mug’s game”!