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PRETTY BOY by Michael Wallis

PRETTY BOY

The Life and Times of Charles Arthur Floyd

By Michael Wallis

Pub Date: April 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-312-07071-3
Publisher: St. Martin's

 Strangely written, often exciting life of Depression-era bank- robber/murderer ``Pretty Boy'' Floyd, by the author of Oil Man (1988). Wallis seems bent on drowning his story in southwestern local color and general Americana, with Charles Arthur Floyd not becoming a bandit for nearly 150 pages. The author has a nifty pen and love of the racy phrase, and if you want to know about outlaw culture from Kansas to Oklahoma--when the James brothers rode, and the Daltons, the Youngers, and Belle Starr--and how it bred early 20th- century robbers and later John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, Baby Face Nelson, and Floyd, then this is for you. Floyd's family nickname was ``Choc,'' the word for the mash in the bottom of a barrel of white lightning, which he liked to drink as a youngster on his family's hardscrabble farms in various southern states. Floyd married Ruby Hardgraves when he was 20, she 16 and pregnant. He tried to go straight by earning money following northern harvests, but bitterness set in and he knocked off a St. Louis payroll. Overspending did him in, and he was sent to Missouri State Penitentiary. There, he learned the fine points of being a professional bank robber, a skill he turned to upon his release when his record sank his efforts to get honest jobs. Centering in Kansas City, where a madam gave him the name ``Pretty Boy,'' he set forth on a life of crime that eventually earned him the FBI's top spot as Public Enemy Number One. Floyd's escapes were incredible, as time and again he shot his way out of traps and was kept safe by farm families who loved him as a folk hero. His heists won him peanuts, since country banks had little money. He died at 30, shot in a field by FBI agents. Once underway, plenty of tension, with Floyd a warmhearted badman. (Illustrations--125--not seen.)