BOOK: Public Enemies (published 7/04)

AUTHOR: Bryan Burrough

FUN FACT: When Bonnie Parker was killed in a hail of 150 bullets alongside her boyfriend Clyde Barrow, her right hand was shot completely off!

WHY COMPLEX IS CO-SIGNING IT: Because we're geeked up to catch the Michael Mann-directed, Johnny Depp-starring flick of the same name (in theaters next Wednesday), but we know it won't be nearly as good as the book (unless it's like 15 hours long, in which case, maybe we ain't so excited to see it after all). Written by a longtime Vanity Fair contributor, PE tells the story of the 18-month crime wave in 1933-34 that birthed the FBI as we know it and gave America some of its most famous criminals: Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger, Machine Gun Kelly, Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, and the Barker Gang...

In the midst of the Great Depression when folk were broke and everybody hated the banks (hmmm, remind anyone of a time we know?), the aforementioned group became cult heroes by criss-crossing the country robbing anything with cash and shooting at cops. Because local police had little authority to pursue suspects beyond state lines, a cross-dressing fat man named J. Edgar Hoover made a play to increase the power of his fledgling Federal Bureau of Investigations (thereby laying the groundwork for an immense amount of really serious fuckery in the '60s and '70s).

With the hardcover clocking in at over 550 pages, PE will herniate some disks if you carry it in your messenger bag, but the writing makes for pure brain candy with no telling details left out (including—SPOILER ALERT!—the dying words of most of the particulars). Sure, you've got just five full days to breeze through the whole thing before the movie opens July 1—it's a small price to pay for being able to tell your fellow theatergoers "Well, it's not quite right, because so-and-so was actually shot in the right eye, not the left..."