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

Public Enemies by Bryan Burrough
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's review
Apr 21, 2009

liked it

Now that the movie is coming out, I expect a few people may actually read this and I can discuss with someone. It's a well-researched, if sometimes slightly dry account of the great gangster crime wave that happened in America in the early 1930's which ultimately led to a great deal of violence, bloodshed, and the birth of the FBI. The movie will focus on John Dillinger, but the book is a chronological account that follows the exploits of Dillinger, Bonnie & Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, and the Barkers. Because there are so many main subjects, the book is pretty thick, but it doesn't bog down too much, and I think the only thing that robs it of that 4th star is Burrough's writing style, which at times comes off as a bit too academic when I really want non-fiction that reads like a James Ellroy novel. Still and all, it's a pretty readable and largely comprehensive guide to this time in our country's history and to these American folk heroes (even if in this case the heroes are pretty much hardened criminals and cold-blooded killers).
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