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Paperback Public Enemies : America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34 Book

ISBN: 0143115863

ISBN13: 9780143115861

Public Enemies : America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34

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Book Overview

Coming in Summer 2009, the major motion picture from Universal Studios "ludicrously entertaining" ( Time ), Public Enemies is the story of the most spectacular crime wave in American history, the two-year battle between the young J. Edgar Hoover and his FBI, and an assortment of criminals who became national icons: John Dillinger, Machine Gun Kelly, Bonnie and Clyde, Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, and the Barkers. In an epic feat of storytelling,...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Public Enemies Review

This was one of the most intriguing books I have ever read. A book has to be really good to be over 500 pages long and yet I read it from cover to cover. The author could have written it differently, instead of mingling all the gangsters together in his story he could have written about them one per each different chapter, this would have made keeping up with the characters somewhat easier, but all in all it was written quite well. I would definitely read another one of his books should the occasion present itself.

Triumph of research and story telling

Reading "Public Enemies" is to be transported to the United States of the 1930's. The country seemed peopled with colorful, if ultimately dangerous, criminals like John Dillinger, Bonnie & Clyde and Pretty Boy Floyd and their more anonymous counterparts in law enforcement. Author Bryan Burroughs re-creates the times, the language, the attitudes, the mores as he tells the story of the rise and fall of celebrity criminals. This is one of those works of non-fiction that is awe inspiring for the breadth and depth of its research alone. That the author is a good storyteller adds to the books magic. One of the more striking realizations from reading "Public Enemies" was how much the movies of the time and immediately after actually captured the talk and manner and actions of these famous criminals and the fates that awaited them. Also noteworthy is the transformation of the FBI and others in law enforcement from a bumbling bunch of Keystone Cops to an efficient crime fighting force. The first half of the book is replete with bungled arrests, leads not followed and daring escapes under the very noses of the law. Some may feel that Burroughs goes into excessive detail in following the daily paths of the criminals. But this reader was fascinated and enjoyed the ride. Prior to "Public Enemies" I knew little about the charismatic Dillinger and didn't know my Pretty Boy Floyd, from my Baby Face Nelson from my Machine Gun Kelly. Now I'm well acquainted with these characters and those who pursued them. If one can temporarily ignore the cost in lives and resources inflicted by these criminals their stories is as the best of fiction, with daring deeds, colorful characters, shootouts and ultimate justice. Burroughs places the people and events in context of the times and reveals how the successful killing and capture of these very public enemies led to the rise of the FBI and its director J. Edgar Hoover. This is not a particularly flattering portrait of Hoover (frankly, I don't think he deserves one). Seen in a far better light are the anonymous agents and police who put in considerable time and their lives on the line in pursuit of the public enemies. This is an awesome book with an appeal to those already well versed in the times and events and those seeking an introduction to them.

A fascinating story, well-told.

"Public Enemies" is a an excellent book, loaded with detail and extremely readable. Burrough's unique approach to the subject matter (showing how the careers of the criminals and their pursuers intertwined over a remarkably short period of time) allows us to see ALL sides of the people and the events involved. As a result, it is neither pro-criminal nor pro-FBI -- rather it is a fascinating documentary of a remarkable time period in American history.

Revelatory and unputdownable

The reviewer who calls this a pro-criminal book should have his head examined. This book replaces the cartoon characters in our heads with the names Bonnie, Clyde, Dillinger, et al, with 3-dimensional human beings, and they're not pretty. They're compelling, because they're such monsters, but this is hardly a positive portrayal of these legendary ciminals! The heroes here are the FBI, who we see learning on the job, recovering from their disastrous mistakes, and taking these criminals down in the end. I bought this book b/c I read a review in TIme that called it "massively researched and ludicrously entertaining," and boy are both true.

The Real Story of '30s Gangsters-Not the Hollywood Version

Brian Burrough has taken alot of time to set the record straight about several major criminal gangs in the 1930s. John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, "Baby Face Nelson" and other criminals traveled primarily through the central U.S., robbing and murdering along the way. Local police deparmtents were either powerless to stop them or were so corrupt they wouldn't do anything. Into this situation stepped the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Investigation. (It was named the Federal Bureau of Investigation -- the F.B.I.-- later.) It's agents were not the highly-trained agents we see today. J. Edgar Hoover and his agents had to learn along the way; they get the job done, but mistakes are made as the criminals are rounded up. Be prepared to see the criminals in a new light: Bonnie and Clyde, for example, are nothing like the 1960s movie. The real Bonnie & Clyde were nothing but sociopaths who murdered at the drop of a hat.If you have liked Burrough's other efforts (Barbarians at the Gate, Vendetta, and Dragonfly) you will enjoy Public Enemies. If you haven't read any of his previous works, get this book and you will be happy to have read it!
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