Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde by Jeff Guinn

If the story of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow was romanticized in the newspapers and true crime serials of the 1930s, and even the poetry left behind by Bonnie, Jeff Guinn's Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde goes a long way to deromanticizing their lives, apart and together, and time on the run.

Guinn paints a harsh picture of the poverty in their West Dallas and provides an almost farcical collection of facts about the crime spree. One of my favorite lines from the movie Thelma & Louise seems fitting here--"Brains will only get you so far, and luck always runs out." And I can't say that Clyde seemed to have much of either brains or luck.

Mostly stealing fast cars and stealing money from stores, when Clyde finally robbed an actual bank, he chose one that had just failed. There was one clerk, and no money in the bank. That pretty much epitomizes almost every decision made during the entire "crime spree" as reported by Guinn. There wasn't ever much money made, and most of their time was spent driving around, trying to avoid death. I say death because Clyde vowed to never go to prison again after his hard experience at Eastham prison farm.

Although I almost felt sorry for Clyde and Bonnie, especially noting their zero chance for leaving the poverty of Depression-era West Dallas in any honest fashion, they certainly killed a lot of people for little reason--a few dollars or, in the case of one young man who attempted to prevent them from stealing his car, which they left behind, absolutely nothing. Or, in a quote I love attributed to John Dillinger, they were "a couple of kids stealing grocery money." How sad and how true.

I really wish I could read the unpublished works by Cumie, Clyde's mother, and Marie, Clyde's sister, that Guinn refers to regularly. I would like to know more about what happened to the Barrow and Parker families beyond the brief lives of Clyde and Bonnie.

My overall personal rating of Go Down Together is a B+.


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