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Michael Wallis is the best-selling author of Route 66, Billy the Kid, Pretty Boy, and David Crockett. He hosts the PBS series American Roads. He voiced The Sheriff in the animated Pixar feature Cars. He lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Floyd, alias ``Pretty Boy,'' a name familiar to all Americans, was one of the notorious gangsters who roamed the United States in the 1920s and 1930s, committing bank robberies and being romanticized as Robin Hood-like figures. In reality, these ``public enemies'' were men and women who terrorized and killed many innocent people before coming to untimely ends. Wallis has written a very engaging biography of Floyd, attempting to separate fiction from fact. Floyd, a product of the rural Southwest, grew up like the Joads of The Grapes of Wrath , having to scramble to make a living. Instead of hard work, he chose a life of crime. This choice ultimately put Floyd on a collision course with the fledgling FBI, whose reputation was enhanced by designating and then eliminating ``public enemies,'' including John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, and Floyd. Recommended where interest in true crime is high.-- Sandra K. Lindheimer, Middlesex Law Lib., Cambridge, Mass.
Delivering more than an outstanding biography of Public Enemy No. 1 during the 1930s, Wallis ( Route 66 ) offers exceptional social and regional history as well. Floyd was born in 1904 in northwest Georgia, then still recuperating from Sherman's march to the sea 40 years before. In 1911 his family moved to Oklahoma, where they hoped farming would be less arduous and more rewarding financially, which it was not; the Great Depression began for farmers at the end of WW I, a decade before it struck the rest of the country. A hard-working youth who picked cotton as a child, Charles turned away from a life of unending toil and no money to become ``a social bandit,'' generously spreading funds stolen from banks among family, friends and even strangers. The clannish hill people of Oklahoma looked on him as a hero and hid him from law officers. Finally the FBI declared war on him and he was shot down in Ohio in 1934 while trying to get back to his adopted state, where between 20,000 and 40,000 people attended his funeral. Illustrations. (Apr.)
"Wallis brings the legendary Robin Hood of the Great Depression alive-and he proves to be a fascinating fellow." -- Tony Hillerman