Go Down Together Paperback – 1 Apr 2010
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About the Author
Jeff Guinn, bestselling author of the three books in 'The Christmas Chronicles,' is an award-winning journalist and writer
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There's always been a certain glamour attached to the celebrity criminals of this era - Bonnie and Clyde themselves, John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd - so it's quite interesting to read just how unglamourous the reality was, how dangerous, dirty and painful Bonnie and Clyde's lives were, how they were attracted to the criminal life by the harshness and impossibility of the Depression, how they never intended to set out to kill anyone and how often they kidnapped law enforcements officers instead of killing them, mostly treating them fairly and kindly along the way, how devoted they were to their families and each other, and how resigned to their fate they were.
In this book neither Bonnie and Clyde come across as anything close to criminal masterminds, more like desperate and unimaginative kids from a dirt poor background who couldn't (or perhaps refused to) see any other to make a living than by turning to crime. It's almost enough to make you pity them. If nothing else, you certainly come away from this book understanding them and the choices they made a little better.
It follows the lives of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow from their early upbringing in the slums of West Dallas to their eventual demise on a backroad in Louisiana.
The narrative moves along at steady pace, significant details are woven into the story but without drowning out the personalities of Bonnie and Clyde and the various members of the Barrow gang. You gradually get drawn into the social and cultural feel of the depression era by the mention significant details, but once again these do not detract from the main characters and their lives.
I read this after reading Dary Materas book on John Dillinger (which I have also reviewed). Despite the two stories taking place at the same time the contrasts could not be more pronounced. Dillinger comes across as smart, successful gangster. Where as Bonnie and Clyde were a rather unsuccessful, inept and small time pair of criminals who barely survived from one day to the next.
At the end of the Dillinger book I had grown to like the charismatic outlaw. In contrast, after coming to the end of Bonnie and Clyde I felt so sorry for them. There is no doubt in my mind that Clyde loved Bonnie, the evidence presented in the book strongly indicates this through Clydes actions and Bonnies reluctance to leave him.
Ultimately John Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde were products of an era where social, political and economic upheaval was taking place. Both chose a criminal path to overcome what at the time would have been lives without much hope. However, despite the comparisons this book shows that the lives of criminals at this time and place could be nasty,depressing and ultimately have a violent outcome. So unlike the Dillinger book this has left me feeling sorry for the two outlaws and their victims. However, as the heading on Clydes headstone reads "Gone but not forgotten".
OK you have the nasty bits, the funny bits, and the bad bits but it is all there, their life should not have been glamourised in any way, it is sad that they ended up as they did.
But then again as always it is the system that causes most trouble for people as we can see even today, but anyhow do buy this book, you will not put it down.
Jeff Guinn is a brilliant writer and a great researcher.
Personally I am really interested in this era of American history.In particular the Dust Bowl, depression, grinding poverty and the way people responded to and endured it. Bonnie and Clyde chose crime and in doing so they became famous outlaws as legendary as Jesse James and Billy the Kid.
If your interested in 30's America and it's outlaws I would thoroughly recommend this book to you.