Books About Bonnie and Clyde
On the whole, books about Bonnie and Clyde seem to fall into one of three categories: those that were written (or ghost-written) by people who knew the ill-fated lovers (or had some connection to them); books written by other people, with no apparent regard for accuracy; and scholarly works - i.e., books that resulted from extensive research and a sincere attempt by the author to be accurate. Unfortunately, even the best of these contain information that is contradictory, incomplete, or erroneous. And only Fugitives, which was co-authored by Bonnie's mother and Clyde's sister and published the same year that the infamous duo died, can be considered "fresh" (but not necessarily reliable) material. In short, it would be a mistake to take as "gospel" everything you read about Bonnie and Clyde because, as with all legendary figures, it is often difficult to separate fact from fiction and all researchers, being human, are apt to make mistakes. Be that as it may, here is a list of some of what might be considered the "best" of these works, with comments regarding each one.
(Please note: This list does not purport to be all inclusive but these are books that anyone interested in Bonnie and Clyde should find informative.)
Title: The True Story of Bonnie and Clyde: As told by Bonnie's Mother and Clyde's Sister
Author: Jan I. Fortune, with Emma Parker and Nell Barrow Cowan
Publisher: Signet Books, 1968
Comments: This paperback book, which came out after the 1967 Warren Beatty-Faye Dunaway movie revived interest in Bonnie and Clyde, was originally published in hardcover in 1934 under the title "Fugitives." Being the most contemporary of all the accounts, it is a "must-have" book for anyone seriously interested in the outlaw couple. Although their relatives were probably more forgiving than the law or the general public, neither Mrs. Parker nor Mrs. Cowan try to justify what Bonnie and Clyde did, providing a more even-handed account than one might expect. Unfortunately, both editions of this book may be hard to find outside libraries. The original, "Fugitives," is now somewhat rare and has been known to sell for as much as $800. You might get lucky, however, and find the paperback at a garage sale for a quarter.
Title: The Strange History of Bonnie and Clyde
Author: John Treherne
Publisher: Stein and Day, 1984
Comments: If you can only afford one book about Bonnie and Clyde, this is the one to buy. It appears to be well-researched, drawing upon both primary and secondary sources. Unfortunately, it lacks footnotes. Its particular strengh lies in Treherne pointing out the different, oftentimes contradictory, versions of some of the stories about Bonnie and Clyde, which many authors fail to do. It is perhaps the best objective account of the couple that exists. Illustrations include the usual photos of the couple and their cohorts plus newspaper editorial cartoons of the time.
Title: The Real Bonnie and Clyde
Author: Miriam Allen deFord
Publisher: Ace Books, Inc., 1968
Comments: This illustrated paperback book appeared in 1968, not long after Warren Beatty's movie about Bonnie and Clyde took the country by storm, leading one to assume that it was published quickly in order to capitalize on the resurgence of interest in the outlaw couple. Whether that assumption is true or not, this is a very well-written, objective account by an author who, like Treherne, takes pains to point out the many contradictory versions of some of the episodes in the criminal career of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Its principal drawbacks, for the serious scholar, are a lack of footnotes and no bibliography. It also contains some errors that might have been prevented if a little more time and care had been taken. For instance, the author writes that on one occasion, Clyde and a member of his gang robbed the "big Interurban filling station" at Grand Prairie, Texas. Dallas area readers with a little knowledge of local history will quickly see the mistake. In the 1930s, the Interurban was a commuter rail line that connected Dallas with Fort Worth and other North Texas cities. Thus the Interurban station was not a filling or gas station, it was a train station!
Title: Running With Bonnie and Clyde: The Ten Fast Years of Ralph Fults
Author: John Neal Phillips
Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996
Comments: This is another good one and one of the most recent. Although Phillips focuses on Fults, whom he personally interviewed, the former Barrow Gang member had a lot to say about the infamous couple with whom Fults' name is inextricably linked. In the process, both Fults and Phillips have added tremendously to our store of knowledge about Bonnie and Clyde and what made them "tick." One noteworthy revelation: According to Fults it was the corrupt Texas prison system of the 1930s that turned Clyde Barrow "from a schoolboy into a rattlesnake." Abused by another inmate after being sent to prison for auto theft, Barrow reportedly committed his first murder behind bars - and got away with it! Indeed, this book is just as much an indictment of the state's Depression-era penal system as it the story of Bonnie and Clyde (and Ralph Fults). One curiosity: For some unknown reason, the author of this otherwise scholarly and well-footnoted work chose to overlook Ted Hinton's admission that he and the other 5 peace officers who shot Bonnie and Clyde resorted to an illegal act (the kidnapping of Henry Methvin's father) in order to carry out their grim duty. Instead, Phillips provides his readers with pretty much the same old story that has persisted since 1934, namely that Methvin was a voluntary participant.
Title: Ambush: The Real Story of Bonnie and Clyde
Author: Ted Hinton, as told to Larry Groves.
Publisher: Shoal Creek Publishers, Inc., 1979
Comments: This book, by the then-last surviving participant in the Bonnie and Clyde ambush, is based both on the author's memory and documentary sources. Perhaps the biggest surprise here is an admission by Hinton that he and the other 5 law enforcement officers who shot Bonnie and Clyde on May 23, 1934 "kidnapped" Ivy Methvin, forcing him to participate in the ambush. According to Hinton, they afterward made a deal with Methvin to keep him from talking to the FBI and getting them into trouble by arranging for his son Henry, a Barrow Gang member, to receive a pardon from the State of Texas. Previously, it was held that Methvin made the deal prior to the ambush and that he was a willing participant. There are some other surprises. One is that Hinton seems to have had something of a crush on Bonnie, ever since she waited on him when he had lunch at a cafe near the Dallas County Courthouse in the late 1920s. Another is that the famous photo of Bonnie smoking a cigar was "doctored" by a newspaper. The original photo, says Hinton, had Bonnie holding a rose between her teeth. Hinton died in October 1977, shortly after completing the manuscript for this book.
Title: The Family Story of Bonnie and Clyde
Author: Phillip W. Steele, with Marie Barrow Scoma
Publisher: Pelican Publishing Co., 2000
Comments: Although Marie Barrow Scoma claimed, prior to her death in 1999, that the "real" story of Bonnie and Clyde had never been told, this book doesn't really add much to what has previously been written. The only new material appears to consist of some personal recollections of Clyde (she was his youngest sister) and the publication of some heretofore unpublished family photos. Nevertheless, this somewhat slender volume contains a good concise version of events. It is really too bad, however, that Ms. Barrow waited so long to tell her story.