Forget everything you think you know about Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker—previous books and films, including the brilliant 1967 movie starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, have emphasized the supposed glamour of America's most notorious criminal couple, thus contributing to ongoing mythology. The real story is completely different—and far more fascinating.
In Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde, bestselling author Jeff Guinn combines exhaustive research with surprising, newly discovered material to tell the real tale of two kids from a filthy Dallas slum who fell in love and then willingly traded their lives for a brief interlude of excitement and, more important, fame. Their timing could not have been better—the Barrow Gang pulled its first heist in 1932 when most Americans, reeling from the Great Depression, were desperate for escapist entertainment. Thanks to newsreels, true crime magazines, and new-fangled wire services that transmitted scandalous photos of Bonnie smoking a cigar to every newspaper in the nation, the Barrow Gang members almost instantly became household names on a par with Charles Lindbergh, Jack Dempsey, and Babe Ruth. In the minds of the public, they were cool, calculating bandits who robbed banks and killed cops with equal impunity.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. Clyde and Bonnie were perhaps the most inept crooks ever, and their two-year crime spree was as much a reign of error as it was of terror. Lacking the sophistication to plot robberies of big-city banks, the Barrow Gang preyed mostly on small mom-and-pop groceries and service stations. Even at that, they often came up empty-handed and were reduced to breaking into gum machines for meal money. Both were crippled, Clyde from cutting off two of his toes while in prison and Bonnie from a terrible car crash caused by Clyde's reckless driving. Constantly on the run from the law, they lived like animals, camping out in their latest stolen car, bathing in creeks, and dining on cans of cold beans and Vienna sausages. Yet theirs was a genuine love story. Their devotion to each other was as real as their overblown reputation as criminal masterminds was not.
Go Down Together has it all—true romance, rebellion against authority, bullets flying, cars crashing, and, in the end, a dramatic death at the hands of a celebrity lawman hired to hunt them down. Thanks in great part to surviving Barrow and Parker family members and collectors of criminal memorabilia who provided Jeff Guinn with access to never-before-published material, we finally have the real story of Bonnie and Clyde and their troubled times, delivered with cinematic sweep and unprecedented insight by a masterful storyteller.
May 23, 2009, will be the 75th anniversary of the bloody deaths of the Depression's dynamic crime duo.Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and ClydeJeff Guinn. Simon & Schuster, $27 (480p) Journalist Guinn (Our Land Before We Die), in this intensely readable account, deromanticizes two of America's most notorious outlaws (they were "never... particularly competent crooks") without undermining the mystique of the Depression-era gunslingers. Clyde Barrow, a scrawny kid in poverty-stricken West Dallasin the late 1920s, stole chickens before moving on to cars, following in the footsteps of his older brother, Buck. In 1930, he met 19-year-old Bonnie Parker, and during the next four years Clyde, Bonnie and the ever-revolving members of the Barrow Gang robbed banks and armories all over the South, murdering at least seven people. Bonnie, who fancied herself a poet, wrote, "Some day they'll go down together," and they did, in a Louisiana ambush led by famed ex Texas Ranger Frank Hamer. With the brisk pacing of a novel, Guinn's richly detailed history will leave readers breathless until the final hail of bullets. 16 pages of b&w photos.
Very exhaustive research. I would have loved to say that it is told as well as it could be. As far as the writing of the facts, the author found a rhythm and stuck with it, as he told each account of their adventures. The facts held me, because they are remarkable, but a little art would have been nice in the prose.
Really great as a whole - I had no idea this subject would be such fun. Makes me want to see the whole film of the ambush, and more photos and media resources.