Charles Leerhsen brings the notorious Butch Cassidy to vivid life in this “lyrical and deeply researched” (Publishers Weekly) biography that goes beyond the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to reveal a more fascinating and complicated man than legend provides.
For more than a century the life and death of Butch Cassidy have been the subject of legend, spawning a small industry of mythmakers and a major Hollywood film. But who was Butch Cassidy, really? Charles Leerhsen, bestselling author of Ty Cobb, sorts out the facts from folklore and paints a “compelling portrait of the charming, debonair, ranch hand-turned-outlaw” (Ron Hansen, author of The Kid) of the American West.
Born into a Mormon family in Utah, Robert Leroy Parker grew up dirt poor and soon discovered that stealing horses and cattle was a fact of life in a world where small ranchers were being squeezed by banks, railroads, and cattle barons. A charismatic and more than capable cowboy—even ranch owners who knew he was a rustler said they would hire him again—he adopted the alias “Butch Cassidy,” and moved on to a new moneymaking endeavor: bank robbery. By all accounts a smart and considerate thief, Butch and his "Wid Bunch" gang eventually graduated to more lucrative train robberies. But the railroad owners hired the Pinkerton Agency, whose detectives pursued Butch and his gang relentlessly, until he and his then partner Harry Longabaugh (The Sundance Kid) fled to South America, where they replicated the cycle of ranching, rustling, and robbery until they met their end in Bolivia.
In Butch Cassidy, Leerhsen “refuses to buy into the Hollywood hype and instead offers the true tale of Butch Cassidy, which turns out to be more fascinating and fun than the myths” (Tom Clavin, bestselling author of Tombstone). In this “entertaining…definitive account” (Kirkus Reviews), he shares his fascination with how criminals such as Butch deftly maneuvered between honest work and thievery, battling the corporate interests that were exploiting the settlers, and showing us in vibrant prose the Old West as it really was, in all its promise and heartbreak.
Biographer Leerhsen (Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty) delivers a lyrical and deeply researched portrait of Wild West outlaw Butch Cassidy. Born into a family of British Mormons in Utah in 1866, Robert LeRoy Parker worked as a cowboy at ranches in Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana before adopting the alias "Butch Cassidy" and launching his criminal career as leader of the Wild Bunch. According to Leerhsen, Cassidy and his compatriots deliberately engaged in criminal enterprises, including cattle rustling and bank and train robbery, that damaged rich and powerful corporate interests without endangering the wealth or safety of ordinary settlers. Leerhsen hits all the well-known highlights, including romantic entanglements with outlaw rancher Ann Bassett and her sister, Josie; dustups with the notorious Pinkerton Detective Agency; and life on the run in South America, but enriches the story with a nuanced reading of social and economic conditions in 19th-century America. The Cassidy that emerges in this version of events is more of a populist outlaw than a swashbuckling gunslinger. Leerhsen is a nimble storyteller whose revisionist agenda doesn't get in the way of crowd-pleasing drama. Old West history buffs will be thrilled.