In this dual biography of celebrated bandits, a specialist in the Old West deftly separates fact from fiction.
The nature of their business required Robert Leroy Parker and Harry Longabaugh to adopt many aliases, but they were best known as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Raised in religious families, both men were well-read, both did a prison stretch for horse stealing, and both had a taste for the traditional cowboy pleasures of drinking, gambling and whoring. The handsome, quick-tempered, aloof Sundance was famous for his lightning draw. The gregarious, shrewd Butch was a natural-born leader, known for his meticulous execution of heists, paying special attention to the getaway plan. Together, from rough hideouts like Wyoming’s Hole-in-the-Wall and Utah’s Robbers’ Roost, they bossed the notorious Wild Bunch, a loose confederation of ruffians and desperados that included the likes of “Kid Curry” and “News” Carver. Butch and Sundance made periodic attempts to go straight, but they always returned to their robbing ways, finally fleeing to Bolivia where the cavalry caught up with them in 1908. Though he supplies plenty of information, Hatch (Osceola and the Great Seminole War, 2012, etc.) earns huge credibility by frankly admitting that much remains unknown about these legendary outlaws, including the mysterious origins and disappearance of Sundance’s beguiling paramour, Etta Place, and the precise circumstances of their deaths. He underscores his theme of Butch and Sundance as the last of a breed, reminding us that by the turn of the century, outlaws no longer faced capture merely by random individuals, but rather by an “organized system,” whereby detective agencies, Pinkerton and Wells Fargo, armed with money and resources, could coordinate with all levels of law enforcement to hunt down criminals.
An easygoing account of the outlaw duo whose era separated Frank and Jesse James from Bonnie and Clyde.