World, Chase Me Down, Andrew Hilleman’s fine debut novel, is a fictional retelling of the exploits of kidnapper Pat Crowe. In the early hours of a cold December Omaha, Nebraska, morning in 1900, Crowe and an accomplice, Billy Cavanaugh, kidnap the teenage son of the wealthy owner of a meatpacking plant, Edward Cudahy. The plan is simple. Snatch the boy, Eddie, Jr., send a ransom letter demanding $25,000 in gold coins, secure the ransom money, release the boy. And it works perfectly until Pat is recognized by his former employer, Mr. Cudahy, while the ransom is delivered.
Crowe spends the next five years running from wanted posters, lawmen, and detectives. He scrambles around the globe finding trouble in every corner. He fondly recalls looting an entire New Mexico town while the marshal was locked in a cell, and a visit to South Africa during the hardest fighting of the Boer War. The narration style is easy with a humorous slant and a comfortable structure; chapters alternate between the kidnapping and Crowe’s backstory, a backstory that explains more than a little about Pat Crowe’s descent into crime.
World, Chase Me Down is an exciting adventure tale told with style and humor. It’s a campfire tall tale with an antihero protagonist as interesting as he is despicable. Crowe is a dime-novel villain with a reputation far larger than its reality could ever be, towering above the stage where he performs. He, the real Pat Crowe, died in 1938 and the date of this fictional telling is 1939, adding a layer of tongue-in-cheek to this welcome tale.