During the early 1930s, outlaws rampaged across much of America, seemingly robbing banks and kidnapping at will. Some of the more famous of these outlaws were Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, Bonnie and Clyde, Machine Gun Kelly and Alvin Karpis and the Barkers, but John Dillinger was undoubtedly the star. A wave of celebrity kidnappings and the murder of four law enforcement officers in Kansas City in June 1933 during a botched attempt to rescue a veteran bank robber made it clear that a national police force was required. Local police were forbidden to cross state lines, so the Bureau of Investigation (later called the FBI), part of the Department of Justice, was an obvious candidate for this national police force. However, it had to pass through a steep learning curve since it was under-funded and its agents were not originally allowed to carry guns. A year later, almost none of the Public Enemies were alive and the FBI had become a national institution.
My podcast on the Public Enemy Era is 28 minutes long.
Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34. Bryan Burrough
The Dillinger Days-John Toland
The Newton Boys: Portrait of an Outlaw Gang-Willis and Joe Newton (as told to Claude Stanush and David Middleton)
Herman “Baron” Lamm, the Father of Modern Bank Robbery-Walter Mittelstaedt
Baby Face Nelson: Portrait of a Public Enemy-Steven Nickel and William J. Helmer
Pretty Boy: The Life and Times of Charles Arthur Floyd-Michael Wallis
Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie & Clyde-Jeff Gunn
The Strange History of Bonnie and Clyde-John Treherne
The Tri-State Terror: The Life and Crimes of Wilbur Underhill-R.D. Morgan
Taming the Sooner State: The War Between Lawmen & Outlaws in Oklahoma & Indian Territory 1875-1941-R.D. Morgan
The Vendetta: FBI Hero Melvin Purvis’s War Against Crime, and J. Edgar Hoover’s War Against Him-Alston Purvis and Alex Tresniowski
Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover, Anthony Summers
J. Edgar Hoover: Secrecy and Power-Richard Gid Powers