1932. The Depression.
America stops eating. Teachers drop in classrooms from hunger.
Lee Childress, a 23-year-old farm boy turned lawyer cannot find work.
Nobody is hiring. The military refuses recruits.
Lee discovers the small and little-known FBI. It is a mess. 266 virginal young lawyers and accountants, without guns or arrest powers, join cynical older agents. Thrown together, they hunt Tommy gun killers.
Honest folks and crooks together laugh at this baby FBI.
Lee joins because he needs a job.
Bank robbers rip open the Midwest.
Kidnappings for ransom happen twice a day. Corrupt politicians control entire cities and protect gangsters hiding out.
Local police receive low pay and less support. They buy their own guns and use the family car for patrol. Their authority stops at the town line. The gangsters enjoy bulletproof cars, automatic weapons and networks of crooked lawyers and doctors to protect them.
The bank robber, Pretty Boy Floyd, kills cops in the Kansas City Massacre.
Two veteran agents and Lee hunt Pretty Boy Floyd through the dark and isolated Ozark Mountains. They move undercover through villages that support Floyd as a Robin Hood.
The chase strains Lee's nerves. The agents hide, eat and sleep in secret. A mountain gunfight breaks out. The agents barely escape.
The FBI boss, J. Edgar Hoover, vows to erase the killers like Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson.
These killers write their names in blood on the streets.
Lee descends into a nervous breakdown, wild sex and alcoholism, steeling himself for the final showdown.