Gannon University Professor and former FBI Special Agent Announces Second Book

Palattella and ClarkPosted: February 11, 2014

Ed Palattella (left) and Jerry Clark, Ph.D. (right) at a Yehl Ballroom book-signing event for "Pizza Bomber" in 2012

The infamous criminal Willie Sutton gave his reason for robbing banks as "That's where the money is."

That's apparently where the stories, are, too, the animating idea behind a new book to be co-authored by Jerry Clark, Ph.D. of Gannon University's criminal justice department and Erie Times News reporter Ed Palattella.

The book, which is tentatively titled "A History of Heists: Bank Robbery in the United States," will be published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers in early spring 2015. The book will present a chronicle of bank robberies in the country that made them famous, from the first daytime bank robbery in the mid 1800's to today.

Clark and Palattella will look at the changes in American bank robbery techniques through the years and how law enforcement techniques have responded to them. Clark, who worked on hundreds of bank robbery cases as an FBI agent, looks forward to combing the historical record to examine famous holdups and the colorful characters involved.

None may be more colorful than Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, the mastermind at the heart of the infamous Pizza Bomber Case. That case, on which Clark was the lead FBI Special Agent, was the subject of "Pizza Bomber: the Untold Story of America's Most Shocking Bank Robbery," the book by Clark and Palattella published in 2012 and now in its third printing. "We thought the book might be a success locally and regionally, but it has done well nationally and internationally too," Clark noted.

That got the attention of Rowman & Littlefield, which contacted Clark and Palattella about writing a proposal for a book about bank robberies. "We wrote it, they loved it and we signed a contract."

Now the hard work of research begins. Because bank robbery is a federal offense, the FBI is the storehouse of information about bank robberies. Clark's ties to the agency should help in that effort. "I'm working with the FBI historian," he said. "There is material about John Dillinger in the archive-including photos-that only the FBI has. I'd love to see that."

In the meantime, plot elements from the Pizza Bomber Case have turned up in television series such as the Discovery Channel's "FBI Criminal Pursuits," Oxygen's "Snapped," Fox' "Almost Human," and others, and Clark has been interviewed on "America's Most Wanted" five times. Books rights are currently being optioned to producers who are in active development of a feature film on the case.

Palattella, who has been a reporter at the Times-News for 24 years, said, ""I am glad to be able to continue to work with Jerry, who has a deep knowledge of criminal behavior and investigative techniques. Particularly because of the movies, bank robbery has a unique place in American culture and crime. Our book will take a look at the criminals, the investigators and how they tried to outwit one another."