Book Review: Public Enemies by Bryan Burrough


For my first post (eek!) I decided to review a book that I just finished. First off, let me just say that I have a long love affair with 1930s crime wave history. It’s probably inappropriate, but it would be true to say that I have a historical crush on John Dillinger and a slight obsession with the facts and fairy tale of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.

All of that being said, I would consider this book a must-have for anyone looking to explore this era either from the viewpoint of the criminals involved or the FBI agents and lawmen who made it their life’s work to hunt down those criminals. Bryan Burrough heavily researched actual FBI files to create a timeline that spans the crime wave of the early thirties. By using the FBI as a common thread, Burrough weaves a tapestry that connects the lives of criminals from John Dillinger and his many accomplices, to the Barker Gang, to Pretty Boy Floyd.

This is a pretty in-depth read, and despite my passion for the era, it did take me quite a while to get through. I would not recommend this book to someone looking for a quick summary of the Barrow or Dillinger Gangs’ exploits, but to the history buff looking for the full story of one of the most exciting and chaotic times in 20th century America.

Bryan Burrough has taken lengthy FBI files, personal interviews, and quite a bit of fact-checking to create the definitive history of America’s greatest crime wave.

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