By the end of 1934 Melvin Purvis was, besides President Roosevelt, the most famous man in America. Just thirty-one 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 prot’g’, 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.