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BONNIE AND CLYDE by Paul Schneider


The Lives Behind the Legend

by Paul Schneider

Pub Date: May 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8050-8672-0
Publisher: John Macrae/Henry Holt

Fast-paced account of the fast-lived lives of Mr. Barrow and Ms. Parker.

In Arthur Penn’s 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde, Faye Dunaway was a fine fit for Bonnie, who, said one eyewitness, “could turn heads.” Schneider (Brutal Journey: The Epic Story of the First Crossing of North America, 2006, etc.) is inclined to a touch more noirish poetry, describing the young Dallas waitress as looking “like a piece of candy…dressed in a funny uniform with enormous lapels, like some cross between a French maid and Raggedy Anne, and she’s barely taller than the big brass cash register on the counter.” But Warren Beatty? Well, Clyde Barrow wasn’t the king stud of the Texas bad guys—that honor went to a contemporary aptly named “Dapper Dan”—but rather a thin drink of water, albeit with a very bad attitude and a solid record of standing tall before judges. Schneider takes some risk in attempting to put himself into the heads of Bonnie, Clyde and assorted criminals and lawmen. But, as he points out in a note on sources, the story has been well covered before by numerous contemporaries of the Depression-era dastardly duo, so that there are plenty of primary sources to back up his claims. Schneider does a righteous job of understanding Bonnie and Clyde, and if they’re not wholly sympathetic—they did kill folks, after all—they’re not wholly monstrous either. Thanks to Penn’s film, there are plenty of people who have some sense of how they lived and died—spectacularly, and without much regard for the messes they left behind. Schneider shows how oddly accurate the film got at least those final moments, all rat-a-tat machine guns and chirping cicadas.

A pleasure for true-crime buffs and a better read than Jeff Guinn’s Go Down Together (2009)—though Guinn breaks more news.