12+ quotes from Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34 by Bryan Burrough

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

Bryan Burrough ·  640 pages

Rating: (4.7K votes)


“To the generations of Americans raised since World War 2, the identities of criminals such as Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, "Ma" Barker, John Dillenger, and Clyde Barrow are no more real than are Luke Skywalker and Indiana Jones. After decades spent in the washing machine of popular culture, their stories have been bled of all reality, to an extent that few Americans today know who these people actually were, much less that they all rose to national prominence at the same time. They were real.”
― Bryan Burrough, quote from Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34


“History is written by the victors, they say, and there was no one alive who would come forward to dispute Hoover’s fabricated story. Never mind that there was no indication whatsoever in Bureau files that Ma Barker had ever fired a gun, robbed a bank, or done anything more criminal than live off her sons’ ill-gotten gains.”
― Bryan Burrough, quote from Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34


“Art has now done for Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow something they could never achieve in life: it has taken a shark-eyed multiple murderer and his deluded girlfriend and transformed them into sympathetic characters, imbuing them with a cuddly likability they did not possess, and a cultural significance they do not deserve.”
― Bryan Burrough, quote from Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34


“an odd-job detective agency with fuzzy lines of authority and responsibility.”
― Bryan Burrough, quote from Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34


“When one looks back across a chasm of seventy years, through a prism of pulp fiction and bad gangster movies, there is a tendency to view the events of 1933-34 as mythic, as folkloric. To the generations of Americans raised since World War II, the identities of criminals such as Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, “Ma” Barker, John Dillinger, and Clyde Barrow are no more real than are Luke Skywalker or Indiana Jones. After decades spent in the washing machine of popular culture, their stories have been bled of all reality, to an extent that few Americans today know who these people actually were, much less that they all rose to national prominence at the same time.”
― Bryan Burrough, quote from Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34


“Hoover viewed the Dillinger case as a potential quagmire and long resisted being drawn into it.”
― Bryan Burrough, quote from Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34


“Hands up! Hands up! Everybody on the floor!” The effect was akin to three wild-eyed berserkers storming a prayer meeting.”
― Bryan Burrough, quote from Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34


“But there was no denying Purvis’s ineptitude in the Dillinger hunt. Suspects were found then lost. His informants were hopeless. He raided the wrong apartments. He built no bridges to the Chicago police while annoying other departments. He’d had his car stolen from in front of his house.”
― Bryan Burrough, quote from Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34


“By mid-summer only Ma Barker remained in Chicago, lost in her jigsaw puzzles. Karpis drove over to visit her one weekend and found she was doing surprisingly well. He and Dock took her to see a movie. To their horror, the film was preceded by a newsreel warning moviegoers to be on the lookout for Dillinger, Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, Karpis, and the Barkers. Karpis scrunched low in his seat as their pictures flashed on the screen. “One of these men may be sitting next to you,” the announcer said. Karpis pulled his hat low over his forehead.”
― Bryan Burrough, quote from Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34


“Clarence Hurt was driving, and he got lost. “Does anyone know where the Post Office Building is?” Hurt asked at one point.

“I can tell you,” Karpis said.

“How do you know where it is?” asked Clyde Tolson, who sat in the backseat with Hoover.

“We were thinking of robbing it,” Karpis said.”
― Bryan Burrough, quote from Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34


“The first recorded U.S. bank robbery, actually a nighttime burglary, came in 1831, when a man named Edward Smith snuck into a Wall Street bank and made off with $245,000. He was caught and sentenced to a five-year term in Sing Sing.”
― Bryan Burrough, quote from Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34


“the Bureau acquired the nickname “The Department of Easy Virtue.”
― Bryan Burrough, quote from Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34


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About the author

Bryan Burrough
Born date August 13, 1961
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