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Publisher's Summary

In Public Enemies, Bryan Burrough strips away a thick layer of myths put out by J. Edgar Hoover's FBI to tell the full story of the most spectacular crime wave in American history, the two-year battle between the young Hoover 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 1933, police jurisdictions ended at state lines, the FBI was in its infancy, and fast cars and machine guns were easily available. It was a great time to be a bank robber. On hand were a motley crew of criminal masterminds, sociopaths, romantics, and cretins.

Bryan Burrough has unearthed an extraordinary amount of new material on all the major figures involved, revealing many fascinating interconnections in the vast underworld ecosystem that stretched from Texas up to Minnesota.

But the real-life connections were insignificant next to the sense of connectedness J. Edgar Hoover worked to create in the mind of the American public, using the "Great Crime Wave" to gain the position of untouchable power he would occupy for almost half a century.

©2004 Bryan Burrough; (P)2004 Simon & Schuster Inc. AUDIOWORKS is an imprint of Simon & Schuster Audio Division, Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"The definitive account of the 1930s crime wave....[Burrough] successfully translates years of dogged research, which included thorough review of recently disclosed FBI files, into a graceful narrative....This book compellingly brings back to life people and times distorted in the popular imagination by hagiographic bureau memoirs and Hollywood." (Publishers Weekly)
"Fascinating..." (The New York Times)
"A colorful history of the mobile, heavily armed, self-glamorizing desperadoes called forth by the Depression and of the government's response, organized by the rigid, brilliant, incorruptible and ultimately creepy J. Edgar Hoover." (The New York Times Book Review)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall

Need the unabridged version

A book like this is fascinating, but I learned my lesson with previous purchases: wait for the unabridged edition!

33 of 36 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Sara
  • Memphis, TN, USA
  • 08-26-09

Too Abridged

Great stories, but I have a feeling that the unabridged version offers more insight into Hoover and the personalities and politics behind the FBI. The abridged version is mostly the gangster tales - very exciting stuff but it lacks the insight that I am sure Burrough meant to communicate. See Michael Mann's movie if you want shootemup stories and wait for the unabridged version if you want the whole story!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Brian
  • ANCHORAGE, AK, United States
  • 08-10-09

Good listen....!

The books goes into most of the gangsters from that era, not just Dillinger. I thought it would have detailed more of Dillinger's life, but it was interesting to hear about some of the other gangsters as well, but not what I thought or like the movie at all.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Great read from the mobster days

History that's close to Chicago where I lived for 12 years. This was a great short story to read before visiting the museum in Crown Point IN.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Absolutely Fantastic!!!!

Would you consider the audio edition of Public Enemies to be better than the print version?

Just as good as the printed version - very well-read.

What did you like best about this story?

Facts! While studying criminology, I researched and read many declassified documents and public record documents. Bryan Burrough did an amazing job maintaining the facts of the period, while merging a well-told narrative.

Which character – as performed by Campbell Scott – was your favorite?

Narrator.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Totally fascinated.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Awesome Book

If you have any interest in the infamous gangsters of the 1930's then this book is for you. Watching movies and TV shows gives us a watered down version of the people. I've read stories of Bonnie & Clyde and Dillinger before but this goes past them into the story of the Barkers, Alvin Karpis, Baby-Face Nelson, and the Kansas City Massacre. It's a very entertaining "read".

  • Overall

Must listen

This is just excellent. Exciting and insightful. Wonderful book.