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PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE

Alvin Karpis

  • Original Title: PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE
  • Publication date: December 1971
  • Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
  • Country: CA
  • 256 print pages
  • Factual/Memoirs

Information

  • Epoch: Historical
  • Time Period: 20th century
  • Location setting: United States
  • Themes: PEOPLE facing life, Looking back on one's life, PEOPLE facing the extraordinary, Rivalry, SOCIETY DYSFUNCTIONS, Poverty, Violence, Power, Corruption, SOCIAL CHRONICLES, Social climbing, Friendship

Pitch

The memoir of Alvin Karpis, known for being a leader of the Barker-Karpis gang in the 1930s. There were only four "public enemies" ever given the title of "Public Enemy #1" by the FBI and Karpis was the only one to be taken alive.

Comments

Alvin Karpis (1907 - 1979), a Depression-era gangster nicknamed "Creepy" for his sinister smile and called "Ray" by his gang members, was a Canadian-born (naturalized American) criminal of Lithuanian descent known for being a leader of the Barker-Karpis gang in the 1930s. Karpis led the gang along with Fred Barker and Arthur "Doc" Barker. There were only four "public enemies" ever given the title of "Public Enemy #1" by the FBI and he was the only one to be taken alive. The other three, John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Baby Face Nelson, were all killed before being captured. He also spent the longest time as a federal prisoner at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, serving 26 years.

Summary

“My profession was robbing banks, knocking off payrolls, and kidnapping rich men. I was good at it. Maybe the best in North America for five years from 1931 to 1936... In another set of circumstances, I might have turned out to be a top lawyer or maybe a big-time businessman. I might have made it to any high position that demanded brains and style and a cool, hard way of handling yourself. Certainly I could have held the highest job there was in any line of police detection work... "

These are the opening lines of Alvin “Old Creepy” Karpis' unique autobiography. In its nostalgic pages, one of the 1930's most notorious and colorful underworld figures - Public Enemy Number One in an era that saw such contenders for the title as John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Bonnie and Clyde, and Pretty Boy Floyd - tells all and tells it like it was. "The book," Karpis writes, "is basically the story of what went on among us better-known thieves of the Depression era and also what seemed to make us tick." And tick it does, like a time bomb set against a safe.

From his early days as a petty thief, his meeting with Freddie Barker and the Karpis - Ma Barker gang's personal crime wave that swept the Midwest and carried them into the headlines, to his enduring duel of nerve and wits with his nemeses, J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI, Alvin Karpis recalls a remarkable life in crime. At the same time, he re-creates the full flavor of a unique chapter in American history: the desperado-ridden years of the Depression, when payroll heists and bank robberies, and gunpoint confrontations between cops and robbers filled the front pages and the daring escapades and high living of the Karpis-Barker gang provided a colorful contrast to the severity of those very hard times. Completely candid and startling in its revelations, PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE brings to dimensional life all the legendary and infamous characters who peopled that extraordinary world.

go further

  • Author’s biography

    Alvin Karpis (1907 - 1979), a Depression-era gangster nicknamed "Creepy" for his sinister smile and called "Ray" by his gang members, was a Canadian-born (naturalized American) criminal of Lithuanian descent known for being a leader of the Barker-Karpis gang in the 1930s. Karpis led the gang along with Fred Barker and Arthur "Doc" Barker. There were only four "public enemies" ever given the title of "Public Enemy #1" by the FBI and he was the only one to be taken alive. The other three, John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Baby Face Nelson, were all killed before being captured. He also spent the longest time as a federal prisoner at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, serving 26 years.