Kirkus Star


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A grand cowboy historical about the Dalton boys, a pungent first novel--each paragraph juicy as chewing tobacco and as heavy-laden with detail as a claw-and-ball bathtub. It begins with Emmett Dalton, the narrator and youngest of the bandits, now in his Hollywood 1937 dotage, a well-to-do scriptwriter and realtor who has just sold his autobiography to Universal Pictures. Brian Donleavy and Broderick Crawford are stumbling about his houseparty celebrating his book sale, and a girl in pale satin underwear is swimming in his pool half-naked. But Emmett is still full of the past, misses it, and goes upstairs to read through his notes for the book. . . and the long flashback begins. The Dalton boys start to turn from law to outlaw when handsome, poetry-reading Bob sees peace-officer brother Frank blown away. A little horse-thieving to begin with, along with older brother Grat (a dummy becoming an alcoholic) and young Emmett. Then a murder, a few arrests for rustling, the loss of all their peace-officer jobs, and it's off to a new territory to hide behind new badges while rustling the locals. Soon they are robbing banks, then trains, their lives passing in a summer lightning flash; and when they decide to rob their hometown banks in Coffeyville, total mayhem follows, with only Em surviving (with 20 holes in him). Surely the definitive novel about the Dalton boys--and a promising, evocative fiction debut on all counts.

Pub Date: April 16th, 1979
ISBN: 0060976985
Publisher: Knopf