Best known for his Wild Westerns, Brooks (<\I>The Stone Garden, not reviewed) moves his gift for high melodrama to the 20th-century historical crime novel.
The author hits some woodnotes wild in this lyrical take on Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow’s two-year crime spree that leaves them dead, she 23, he 24. It’s hard to say why Bonnie’s so taken with young badman Clyde. He’s off to jail soon after she meets him, then out, then she’s doing a stretch, then out when he’s in again. She’s seeing other guys for two years until Clyde finally gets paroled and the two hook up for what will be their fatal joyride of cheap filling-station robberies and grocery knockovers. Brooks delivers a lot of highfalutin’ stuff, but, after all, Bonnie’s a poet, though her most famous poem never gets quoted here. Clyde, like his brother Buck, has some difficulties making love that apparently stem from having been raped in prison. Brooks never satisfies the reader’s curiosity about Clyde’s often-powerless organ, though we learn that in prison he chopped off two toes to get himself into the infirmary and away from rapists. Roy Hamilton, their fellow robber, has an eye for Bonnie, who sublimates her sex-life with her adoration of Clyde—though Roy does at last have his way with her. The story outlines are already familiar, and Brooks heightens his version with rhapsodic imagery (“Love cannot pierce wood, nor glass nor steel. But surely bullets can. /And bullets can pierce the heart, the bone, the flesh just as easily./When will love’s last kiss come? When will lovers last embrace? / Death at dawn is not exactly expected./ Night is when death feasts. And night is mostly when Clyde keeps vigil. But dawn finds him lightly asleep next to his Bonnie”). Throughout, the star-crossed lovers foresee their doom, chewing on like a sweet black licorice stick.
Strangely charming, even the fatal hail of bullets.