Books: Crimes and Misdemeanors

How Pretty Boy Floyd, Machine Gun Kelly--and J. Edgar Hoover--changed America forever

At 7:15 on the morning of June 17, 1933, seven men--local cops and federal agents--were loading a bank robber named Frank Nash into a car in Kansas City, Mo. Suddenly a voice barked, "Let 'em have it!" and the group was engulfed by a storm of bullets. When the shooting stopped, somebody said, "Everyone's dead in here."

They weren't quite, but five of them were, including Nash. According to Bryan Burrough's massively researched, ludicrously entertaining Public Enemies (Penguin Press; 592 pages), the Kansas City Massacre, as it came to be called, jump-started a national anticrime campaign that turned a governmental backwater...

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