The Lives and Times of Bonnie and Clyde

The Lives and Times of Bonnie and Clyde

The Lives and Times of Bonnie and Clyde

The Lives and Times of Bonnie and Clyde


Relying on primary sources- oral history interviews, personal memoirs, newspaper articles, official records, diaries, and letters- E. R. Milner cuts through myth and legend to create this startling portrait of the real Bonnie and Clyde. In his prologue, Milner introduces Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, showing them as they drive along a rural Louisiana lane toward the ambush that would put a dramatic end to their turbulent lives of crime. Milner then traces their backgrounds, noting the events that bring the two outlaws together. The ensuing adventures of Bonnie and Clyde featured gun battles, narrow escapes and captures, frequent moves, and, of necessity, several shifts in personnel over a short period of time. It was a life of wild action, betrayal, and sometimes even gallantry. In the abstract, an aura of romance surrounded this violent pair.

Although the mythology surrounding Bonnie and Clyde is charged with drama and fascination, Milner reveals the truth behind the bloody legend, carefully gleaning materials from obscure locally published accounts, previously untapped court records, and archived but unpublished oral history accounts from some sixty victims, neighbors, relatives, and police who were involved in the exploits of the infamous duo. And the truth proves to be sufficiently exciting. Romance aside, the Barrow gang carved a grisly swath through Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. The string of deaths was long- and real: Akota, Oklahoma, sheriff severely wounded, deputy killed; Sherman, Texas, grocery clerk killed; Temple, Texas, man killed as gang attempts to steal his car; Joplin, Missouri, two officers killed; Alma, Arkansas, police officer killed; Crockette, Texas, prison guard killed; Miami, Oklahoma, police officer killed.

Milner traces this violent path until 23 May 1934, when Bonnie and Clyde die in an ambush. Even dead, they draw crowds and are buried in a circus-like atmosphere. In death they continue to intrigue us in ways few criminals had before or have since.


Shortly before 9:00 o'clock on the morning of 23 May 1934, a tan 1934 Ford sedan, stolen in Topeka, Kansas, a few days before, sped along the Sailes Road about eight miles south of Gibsland in northwest Louisiana. The occupants, Bonnie and Clyde, were high upon the list of most wanted criminals in America. In other circumstances the couple would be considered attractive. Bonnie was small, less than five feet tall and weighed about ninety pounds. Ringlets of strawberry blond hair surrounded the fragile features of her face; a spray of freckles crossed her nose and deep dimples adorned her cheeks. Conscious of her clothes, she usually donned a stylish red dress, shoes, bag, and hat. Most people considered Clyde a handsome young man with his impish, quick smile, and thick brown hair parted on the left side. His brown eyes had a slight squint, as if he had strained to see great distances far longer than his twenty-five years. A thin, small man, he weighed about one hundred and twenty-five pounds and stood only a few inches taller than Bonnie. Clyde usually wore a business suit, often with a vest, and a white shirt and tie. Frequently, he wore a light gray wide-band hat that was fashionable in the 1930 s. But his well-dressed appearance and his smiling face concealed a slumbering volcanic temper waiting to explode.

Bonnie and Clyde knew a posse was on their trail. They didn't know, however, that the six officers themselves had driven along this Louisiana road just seven hours before. The lawmen had carefully turned off the dirt lane and hidden their cars behind dense shrubbery on the east side of the road. The humid night was like black ink as . . .

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