Following the slow rise and eventual demise of the world’s first submachine gun, Tommy is the story of one man’s dream to help his country on the battlefield and the unfortunate ways his dream became a national nightmare.
Retired Colonel John Thompson dedicated his life to developing a lightweight, handheld, automatic rifle that soldiers could use in advanced warfare. After failing to convince the Army to develop one in-house, Thompson created the private company Auto-Ordnance. On November 11, 1918—World War I’s Armistice Day—the company realized their goal, but with the Great War now over, the new challenge was to find a market for “the most dangerous small arm in the world.” As the company struggled to secure sales, the fearsome “Tommy gun” fell into the wrong hands and appeared at the center of many Prohibition-era America’s crime scenes and gang-related activities.
Karen Blumenthal puts her prodigious journalistic skills to great use, revealing how the gun played a significant role in a pivotal moment in America’s history—as well as the invention’s unintended political and social ripple effects.