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The Vendetta: FBI Hero Melvin Purvis's War Against Crime, and J. Edgar Hoover's War Against Himby Alston Purvis
Synopses & Reviews
By the end of 1934 Melvin Purvis was, besides President Roosevelt, the most famous man in America. Just thirtyone years old, he presided over the neophyte FBI's remarkable sweep of the great Public Enemies of the American Depression—John Dillinger; Pretty Boy Floyd; Baby Face Nelson. America finally had its hero in the War on Crime, and the face of all the conquering G-Men belonged to Melvin Purvis. Yet these triumphs sowed the seeds of his eventual ruin. With each new capture, each new headline touting Purvis as the scourge of gangsters, one man's implacable resentment grew. J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI, was immensely jealous of the agent who had been his friend and protégé, and vowed that Melvin Purvis would be brought down. A vendetta began that would not end even with Purvis's death. For more than three decades Hoover trampled Purvis's reputation, questioned his courage and competence, and tried to erase his name from all records of the FBI's greatest triumphs.
Alston Purvis is Melvin's only surviving son. With the benefit of a unique family archive of documents, new testimony from colleagues and friends of Melvin Purvis and witnesses to the events of 1934, he has produced a grippingly authentic new telling of the gangster era, seen from the perspective of the pursuers. By finally setting the record straight about his father, he sheds new light on what some might call Hoover's original sin - a personal vendetta that is one of the earliest and clearest examples of Hoover's bitter, destructive paranoia.
"Purvis's fascinating story of his father, once internationally famous for his role in the violent takedown of John Dillinger and now an obscure figure, limns a true American tragedy. The senior Purvis's meteoric rise to prominence at the FBI, just coming into its own, placed the genteel lawyer at the center of the war on crime that gripped the nation in the early 1930s. His enthusiasm and dedication caught the notice of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who promoted him repeatedly and gave him more and more serious responsibilities. But Hoover's pettiness and paranoia led him to turn on his protg, even reaching out decades after Purvis's departure from the Bureau to block him from other jobs. The book's impact is lessened somewhat by florid writing ('Something evil came to Wellsville in the dead of night'). Purvis (with People magazine writer Tresniowski) could have compensated for the existence of rival narratives such as Bryan Burrough's definitive Public Enemies by dwelling more on his own memories of his father, rather than giving details of manhunts for gangsters, but he succeeds in giving Melvin Purvis the accolades he deserves. Illus. not seen by PW. Agent, Ike Williams." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
His son tells the life story of Melvin Purvis, once an iconic G-man and public hero, who was destroyed not by the famous villains of the 1930s but by the jealousy of his boss, J. Edgar Hoover.
About the Author
Alston Purvis has appeared widely in the media, including the History Channel and A&E, to talk about his father. He is head of Boston University's design department.
Alex Tresniowski is a senior writer for People magazine specializing in politics, crime and current events. The author of five books, including an upcoming biography of boxer Billy Conn, he lives in New Jersey.
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