Go Down Together by Jeff Guin (Simon & Schuster, 2009)
This is not a novel; it is actually a biography of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, the infamous depression-era outlaws. It follows Bonnie and Clyde from their early life, first meeting, initial crimes, and all the way to their deaths and aftermath. It is a gripping account that hooked me from the start. It was interesting to learn about the real Bonnie and Clyde with all the Hollywood gloss stripped away. Probably the single biggest influence on public perception of the pair was the 1967 film, Bonnie and Clyde, with Warren Beatty as Clyde and Faye Dunaway as Bonnie. However, Clyde was in reality quite short and scrawny, and Bonnie nowhere as glamorous as Dunaway. Witnesses speak of them appearing increasingly haggard-looking, which is unsurprising as they were mostly forced to sleep in stolen cars and bathe in streams. Clyde was a talented driver and shot, but as robbers they really were not that good; their most successful robberies were carried out when other more experienced criminals were in the Barrow gang. Bonnie was actually severely injured in a car crash, when battery acid damaged one of her legs very badly, and she had great difficulty walking after that. She was obsessed with fame, but equally with trying to stop the media presenting her as smoking cigars; this was, however, her own fault, as she posed for a photograph holding one. Their success in evading capture for the two years they were being hunted was in great part due to possessing better weapons and transport than the rural law officers they came across, plus those officers not realising whom they were taking on. There was also a reluctance to inform on them as many people at the time were deeply suspicious of the authorities. It was also interesting to read about other members of the Barrow gang, most being transient; some were captured or killed, while others left as they viewed Clyde as an incompetent robber. If you are interested in depression-era outlaws, and in particular Bonnie and Clyde, Go Down Together is a really good read.