This fictionalized account of Charles Arthur Floyd is a romanticized look at one of the Depression era’s most wily gangsters. Floyd was born into poverty in Oklahoma and expected to remain poor because well-paying jobs were impossible to find. His desire to support his family combined with his own restlessness drove him to seek a more lucrative profession. The seemingly easy money to be made by robbing Kroger stores prompted his first heist in the late 1920s.
A jail stint for a later robbery nearly convinced Floyd to try to make an honest living. However, the police had labeled him a crook and automatically suspected him of every crime. The taste of wealth had become addictive, and Pretty Boy took to robbing banks with various accomplices. Becoming the FBI’s most wanted was almost an accident. To the very end, he denied his involvement in the Kansas City Massacre, and even though he insisted that he never meant to hurt anyone, the exaggeration of his crimes by the police and the media lead him to be reviled by all but those who knew him best.
Portrayed as a sympathetic character, Pretty Boy Floyd is presented as a man misunderstood, especially when depicted through the eyes of his wife, his parents, his accomplices, and others who loved and admired him. Floyd is also a narrator at times and explains his motivation and remorse for his criminal acts. Brooks uses the technique of short choppy narratives, tied together by the events of Floyd’s life, almost like a modern-day television expose. It definitely works, resulting in a biographical novel that is highly recommended.