PRETTY BOY FLOYD
Pulitzer Prize winner McMurtry (Streets of Laredo, 1993, etc.) forms one half of this writing team that turned a prior collaboration on a film script (for a movie that remains unmade) into a novel. With no hope for employment during the Depression, Charley Floyd leaves his family in his Oklahoma hometown and heads to St. Louis to look for a job. Instead, he meets Bill "the Killer" Miller and robs an armored truck. Unfortunately, Charley's just a "big hick" who can't get over the fact that he has more than $5,000 in his pocket; so, despite the warning from boarding-house matron Ma Ash not to spend a cent, he goes on a suspicious spree, buying everything from a bracelet for a looker named Beulah to a bright blue Studebaker for himself. A few days later, his wife, Rose, knows he's in trouble the minute he walks in the door; she makes the unbelievably sappy assessment that "he was a natural-born thief; after ail, he had stolen her heart." Luckily, readers can pass over the bad writing and concentrate on the story. After a four-year stint in the state penitentiary, Charley vows to be a better outlaw and travels around the country pulling bank jobs while always being polite to the hostages, wearing expensive clothes, and never killing anyone unless truly necessary. (Along with his handsome mug, this earns Charley the moniker, "Pretty Boy Floyd.") To add to the action, he bounces from bed to bed, sweet-talking everyone from Ma Ash (who should know better than to chase young boys) to Beulah (who follows Charley even after having been shot in the head), to Rose (who comes back even after getting a divorce). But then J. Edgar Hoover declares him Public Enemy Number One, and even Charley knows he's going down. A charming, albeit predictable, story that reads like a B-movie.