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

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Forget everything you think you know about Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. Previous books and films, including the brilliant 1967 movie starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, have emphasized the supposed glamour of America's most notorious criminal couple, thus contributing to ongoing mythology. The real story is completely different -- and far more fascinating.

In Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde, bestselling author Jeff Guinn combines exhaustive research with surprising, newly discovered material to tell the real tale of two kids from a filthy Dallas slum who fell in love and then willingly traded their lives for a brief interlude of excitement and, more important, fame. Their timing could not have been better -- the Barrow Gang pulled its first heist in 1932 when most Americans, reeling from the Great Depression, were desperate for escapist entertainment. Thanks to newsreels, true crime magazines, and new-fangled wire services that transmitted scandalous photos of Bonnie smoking a cigar to every newspaper in the nation, the Barrow Gang members almost instantly became household names on a par with Charles Lindbergh, Jack Dempsey, and Babe Ruth. In the minds of the public, they were cool, calculating bandits who robbed banks and killed cops with equal impunity.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. Clyde and Bonnie were perhaps the most inept crooks ever, and their two-year crime spree was as much a reign of error as it was of terror. Lacking the sophistication to plot robberies of big-city banks, the Barrow Gang preyed mostly on small mom-and-pop groceries and service stations. Even at that, they often came up empty-handed and were reduced to breaking into gum machines for meal money. Both were crippled, Clyde from cutting off two of his toes while in prison and Bonnie from a terrible car crash caused by Clyde's reckless driving. Constantly on the run from the law, they lived like animals, camping out in their latest stolen car, bathing in creeks, and dining on cans of cold beans and Vienna sausages. Yet theirs was a genuine love story. Their devotion to each other was as real as their overblown reputation as criminal masterminds was not.

Go Down Together has it all -- true romance, rebellion against authority, bullets flying, cars crashing, and, in the end, a dramatic death at the hands of a celebrity lawman hired to hunt them down. Thanks in great part to surviving Barrow and Parker family members and collectors of criminal memorabilia who provided Jeff Guinn with access to never-before-published material, we finally have the real story of Bonnie and Clyde and their troubled times, delivered with cinematic sweep and unprecedented insight by a masterful storyteller.

468 pages, Hardcover

First published March 10, 2009

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About the author

Jeff Guinn

33 books581 followers
Jeff Guinn is a former journalist, who has won national, regional and state awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, and literary criticism.

Guinn is also the bestselling author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction including, but not limited to: Go Down Together: The True Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde (which was a finalist for an Edgar Award in 2010); The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral - and How It Changed the West; Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson; and The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple.

Jeff Guinn is a member of the Texas Institute of Letters, and the Texas Literary Hall of Fame. He appears as an expert guest in documentaries and on television programs on a variety of topics.

Guinn lives in Fort Worth, Texas.

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Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
January 13, 2019
”We're going down, down in an earlier round
And Sugar, we're going down swinging
I'll be your number one with a bullet
A loaded god complex, cock it and pull it

We're going down, down (down, down)
Down, down (down, down)
We're going down, down (down, down)
A loaded god complex, cock it and pull it.”

---Sugar, We are Going Down by Fall Out Boy

 photo bonnie-and-clyde201967_zpsadv8m2vy.jpg
The first time I met Bonnie and Clyde, they looked like this. Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty 1967.

John Dillinger has always been my favorite Depression Era gangster. He was cool, suave, charming, and organized. He was made for Hollywood. Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, and Machine Gun Kelly had the best nicknames, evoking danger and romance just by letting their names trip across your tongue. Alvin “Creepy” Karpis was the only one of the Big Four named as Public Enemy #1 (Sorry Machine Gun Kelly, you didn’t make the cut) to be captured alive. I’ve always sort of been dismissive of Bonnie and Clyde because I’ve always perceived them as just a couple of bungling, murderous kids who never really became organized enough to be true gangsters.

Jeff Guinn completely changed my mind.

They were not criminal masterminds, not even close to the same class as say a John Dillinger, who planned and did careful reconnaissance before committing to any bank job. Dillinger was always after the big score. Get enough in one job to not have to work for a while and at the same time minimize risk. Bonnie and Clyde were much more likely to knock off a gas station or break into a hardware store for just enough money to keep them in gas and food. Just a couple of inept kids, right?

That case can be made, but these inept kids killed somewhere in the neighborhood of nine police officers and numerous civilians. They squeezed out of more tight spots than Houdini and led law enforcement on a merry chase from Texas up to Minnesota and back. Two years of sleeping in stolen cars and constantly moving like a pair of murderous gypsies kept them just out of reach of the law. They had no illusions about how all this was going to end, but until then they were going to sell a lot of newspapers.

 photo Clyde20and20Bonnie_zpsg4vabmuu.jpg
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. The real ones.

”Thanks to the media. Clyde and Bonnie had quickly come to be considered the epitome of scandalous glamour. But in person Clyde was short and scrawny, and Bonnie’s looks were ordinary. They were both crippled, Clyde from cutting off two of his own toes in prison and Bonnie as the result of a car wreck nine months earlier in which her right leg was burned so badly that bone was visible in several places. She hopped now rather than walked. Clyde often had to carry her. They had little in common with the glittering images of themselves that mesmerized the public.”

Soaking wet, Clyde might have weighed 127 pounds, which made him an easy target for bullying while he did a stint in prison. A fellow prisoner by the name of Crowder made his life a living hell. He was much larger than Clyde and had no problem overpowering him and raping him repeatedly. Prisoners were also expected to work long hours on the prison farm in debilitating heat. It was not unusual for men to choose to disfigure themselves rather than work the grueling hours for the prison farm. Clyde was no exception and cut off two toes, including his left big toe. He had no idea that his mother had arranged clemency for him, and he was released within a few weeks. This kind of bad luck, bad timing, followed Clyde around for the rest of his short life.

 photo Clyde20Barrow20Mugshot_zpsnmczvpf6.jpg
They put Clyde Barrow in prison as a petty crook and sent him out as a gangster.

It is no surprise that Clyde swore he’d never go to prison again, which changed the game. With the option of surrender eliminated from consideration, Clyde became a very dangerous man to try to apprehend.

Clyde and Bonnie both grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in West Dallas. The one thing they knew was they would do anything to not be poor. When Clyde got out of jail, he tried to go straight, but the local sheriff and his deputies made it impossible for him to keep a job. Any time there was a car stolen or a burglary, they would come haul Clyde out of work to question him. It didn’t need to happen twice before an employer was telling him to hit the bricks.

What’s a guy to do?

The public should have been afraid, not enamored, with Bonnie and Clyde, but the Depression Era was a time when people were becoming very aware of the difference between the haves and the have nots, and Bonnie and Clyde represented a thrilling, romantic rebellion. For people trapped in their honest but meager lives, they could live vicariously through them by just buying a newspaper or, for those who wanted even more sensationalized stories, by picking up a copy of True Detective.

When some undeveloped pictures were confiscated in a raid on a Barrow gang temporary abode in Joplin, the press and public went wild. Most were just pictures of them goofing around, but those pictures did as much to shape their legacy as the true stories about their exploits. ”The Joplin photos introduced new criminal superstars with the most titillating trademark of all--illicit sex. Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were young and unmarried. They undoubtedly slept together--after all, the girl smoked cigars. Whether they’d even heard of the term or not, the Freudian implications did not escape journalists or their readers.”

They were demonized and deified in equal measure.

 photo Buck20and20Blanche20Barrow_zpskgtipvgr.jpg
Buck and Blanche Barrow. Blanche was sultry and naturally more glamorous than Bonnie, which caused some friction.

Clyde’s older brother, Buck, and his lovely wife, Blanche, were part of the gang off and on. Other members came and went, too. A Raymond Hamilton had the best influence on Clyde. He brought planning and organization to the gang and allowed them to knock off more lucrative targets. Unfortunately, Clyde and Raymond were in a constant power struggle for control that insured they could not get along for extended periods of time. Clyde had the same problem with his older brother, Buck. It was going to be his show or no show at all.

 photo Bonnie Parker_zpspbrbhlvn.jpg
Bonnie Parker

Bonnie was a poet. You won’t be confusing her with T. S. Eliot or Walt Whitman or Emily Dickinson, but there is a poignancy in the fact that she felt the need to express herself, to make sense of her life with words.

The End of the Line

You've read the story of Jesse James
Of how he lived and died;
If you're still in need
Of something to read,
Here's the story of Bonnie and Clyde.
Now Bonnie and Clyde are the Barrow gang,
I'm sure you all have read
How they rob and steal
And those who squeal
Are usually found dying or dead.
There's lots of untruths to these write-ups;
They're not so ruthless as that;
Their nature is raw;
They hate all the law
The stool pigeons, spotters, and rats.
They call them cold-blooded killers;
They say they are heartless and mean;
But I say this with pride,
That I once knew Clyde
When he was honest and upright and clean.
But the laws fooled around,
Kept taking him down
And locking him up in a cell,
Till he said to me,
"I'll never be free,
So I'll meet a few of them in hell."
The road was so dimly lighted;
There were no highway signs to guide;
But they made up their minds
If all roads were blind,
They wouldn't give up till they died.
The road gets dimmer and dimmer;
Sometimes you can hardly see;
But it's fight, man to man,
And do all you can,
For they know they can never be free.
From heart-break some people have suffered;
From weariness some people have died;
But take it all in all,
Our troubles are small
Till we get like Bonnie and Clyde.
If a policeman is killed in Dallas,
And they have no clue or guide;
If they can't find a fiend,
They just wipe their slate clean
And hand it on Bonnie and Clyde.
There's two crimes committed in America
Not accredited to the Barrow mob;
They had no hand
In the kidnap demand,
Nor the Kansas City depot job.
A newsboy once said to his buddy;
"I wish old Clyde would get jumped;
In these awful hard times
We'd make a few dimes
If five or six cops would get bumped."
The police haven't got the report yet,
But Clyde called me up today;
He said, "Don't start any fights
We aren't working nights
We're joining the NRA."
From Irving to West Dallas viaduct
Is known as the Great Divide,
Where the women are kin,
And the men are men,
And they won't "stool" on Bonnie and Clyde.
If they try to act like citizens
And rent them a nice little flat,
About the third night
They're invited to fight
By a sub-gun's rat-tat-tat.
They don't think they're too tough or desperate,
They know that the law always wins;
They've been shot at before,
But they do not ignore
That death is the wages of sin.
Some day they'll go down together;
And they'll bury them side by side;
To few it'll be grief
To the law a relief
But it's death for Bonnie and Clyde.

 photo Bonnie-and-clyde-2_zpsvbjktfft.jpg
The Death Car.

We all know how it ends. Guinn writes that final scene in Bienville Parish, Louisiana, the best I’ve ever seen it described. It is gruesome and heartless, born out of a real fear of these outlaws who had proven themselves to be as dangerous and unpredictable as trapped animals. 130 rounds were poured into that 1934 Cordoba Gray, 8 cylinder, deluxe sedan Ford with the greyhound radiator cap, which had been stolen in Topeka, Kansas, and forever now known as THE DEATH CAR. When the legendary Texas Ranger Frank Hamer walks up to the car and puts one final blast into Bonnie, a few expletives escaped my lips. I felt a flare of anger that attests to the difference between knowing people and just knowing they existed. Last night, I heard Bonnie’s screams in one of my nightmares, and the men who were there that day heard them for the rest of their lives.

If you want to really meet THE Bonnie Parker and THE Clyde Barrow, then the only way you are going to do it properly is to read this book.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visithttp://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for Matt.
919 reviews28.3k followers
December 11, 2021
“Some day they’ll go down together;
And they’ll bury them side by side,
To a few it’ll be grief –
To the law a relief –
But it’s death for Bonnie and Clyde.”

- Bonnie Parker, The End of the Line, a poem written weeks before her death in 1934

“An hour passed, then two. At nine o’clock there was no sign of Clyde and Bonnie, but the posse stayed in place. [Frank] Hamer had no doubt he was coming – he knew from months of careful study that Clyde always kept his word about appointments. Finally at 9:15 they heard a car approaching from the north several seconds before it even came into sight. The throaty purr of the engine indicated the automobile was more powerful than most other vehicles on Bienville Parish roads. Then the gray Ford V-8 sedan roared into view a quarter-mile to the lawmen’s right. Clyde as usual had a heavy foot on the gas pedal, and in contrast to the lumbering trucks that had passed earlier, the Ford was moving fast, possibly at 60 miles per hour or more on this long, straight stretch. [Deputies] Hinton and Alcorn squinted at the vehicle. ‘This is him,’ Hinton whispered to Alcorn. ‘This is it, it’s Clyde…’”
- Jeff Guinn, Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie & Clyde

Along with peanut butter & jelly and Batman & Robin, Bonnie & Clyde have to rank among the most recognizable pairings in American cultural history. It has been almost ninety years since they died in a hailstorm of bullets, and fifty-four years since Arthur Penn’s classic film turned them into icons of something they never represented. Though many people would be hard-pressed to provide details about Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, I’d venture that most at least recognize their names, recall that they were outlaws, and know that they went out of this world with a bang.

During the 1930s – a time of dust storms, depression, joblessness, and a looming world war – America’s “public enemies” became celebrities. People followed John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, and Pretty Boy Floyd with the rapt attention that is today given to fantasy sports. Even in a crowded field of debonair thieves with three-piece suits, snappy quips, and remorseless hearts, Bonnie and Clyde stood out. It was not because they were especially good at stealing. As Jeff Guinn points out repeatedly in his excellent Go Down Together, the Texas-born duo was pretty incompetent when it came to heists. Most of the time, they were sticking up gas stations and local businesses for a few dollars a pop, while true professionals such as Dillinger – with deeper underworld connections – were raking in thousands.

What set Bonnie and Clyde apart – what immortalized them – was the admixture of sex and violence. When pictures of Bonnie chomping a cigar and holding guns were published in papers, it created an image that has endured for decades.

In Go Down Together, Guinn sets out to de-glamorize the couple, to push back against the image of slick robberies, fast cars, and attractive young lovers bucking the system. He tries to show Bonnie and Clyde (who he resolutely refers to as “Clyde and Bonnie”) for what they really were: penny-ante crooks with short statures who took approximately thirteen lives for what amounted to pocket change.

Almost every page of Go Down Together is devoted to miniaturizing Bonnie and Clyde, scrubbing them of the sheen of myth, placing them back into context, and presenting them as the flawed – even despicable – beings that they were.

The most surprising thing about this book is that when Guinn is finished giving us “the true, untold story,” we are still left with one hell of an epic and unforgettable ride.


Published in 2009, Go Down Together was Guinn’s first book. Since that time, he has become one of the best chroniclers of historical true crime, producing excellent volumes on Charles Manson and Jim Jones.

It is hard to describe what exactly makes Guinn so effective in his storytelling. His prose is not flashy or memorable. His narratives are constructed chronologically, with no non-linear flourishes. While always serviceable, I would not say that he is especially brilliant with scene-setting or set-piece sequences.

For all that, I’ve found his books effortless engrossing. If I had to point to one thing, it’s the details. Guinn does his research, as he demonstrates with his bibliographical essay and annotated endnotes. This digging allows him to recreate Bonnie and Clyde’s world to such an extent that even when their trail goes cold, there never seems to be a gap, because Guinn is able to give a really good guess as to what they were doing.

Guinn also uses those details to give extremely strong characterizations of both Bonnie and Clyde. I’ve often said that one of the marks of a good biography is that you have an idea of what it’d be like to interact with the subject, to know what they might say or how they might respond in a given situation. I got that sense here. I often felt like I was sitting between them in some cramped and stolen coupe, feeling the engine roar as sock-footed Clyde pressed the accelerator; listening to Bonnie happily chatter away; watching the small towns and isolated farms roll past; smelling their body odor because they’ve spent weeks on the run, camping out in the woods.

Importantly, Guinn is clear-eyed about who he is writing about. He lays out the complexities of their upbringings in the West Dallas slums, shows the desperation of their circumstances, but never lets them off the hook, never apologizes for their actions. Clyde was an outlaw and a killer, and in no way a decent member of civilization. Despite Guinn’s soft spot for Bonnie – a wannabe poet who was not likely a trigger-puller – he still shows her as an aider and abettor who refused to leave Clyde’s side, even knowing what he’d done.


Go Down Together is neatly divided into four sections. The first covers Bonnie and Clyde’s childhoods and early years, including Clyde’s time in Eastham Prison, where he killed an inmate who repeatedly raped him. The second follows the escapades of the so-called Barrow Gang, as they made a crime-filled circuit of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri (among other states). About the only thing missing in this section was a map, which would have made following their oft-lethal adventures a bit easier. The third section follows the hunt for Bonnie and Clyde, led by famed Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, which culminated in a controversially excessive ambush near Gibsland, Louisiana. The final, shortest portion of the book is devoted to tying up loose ends and meditating on the twisted legacies of Bonnie and Clyde. Taken altogether, it is hard to find fault with this presentation. It answers just about every question, points out areas of dispute with regard to the evidence, and is written with an understated compassion, especially as to the Barrow and Parker families.


Go Down Together is revisionist history. It is what we might call a deconstruction, an excavation of the Bonnie and Clyde legend that scours away romance, hyperbole, and false motivations. From a reader’s standpoint, the trouble with such a deconstruction is that it can leave you wondering why you bothered in the first place. In other words, there are times when you scrape away so many layers that you are left without anything at all.

The minor genius of Go Down Together is that even after power-washing the barnacles of symbolism, gossip, and lore, what remains is quite potent. By adding shade and dimension to Bonnie and Clyde, they become more interesting, not less. By focusing on their bungles, their mistakes, the senselessness of their carnage, the saga becomes richer and deeper than the quasi-Robin Hood antics depicted in the contemporary press, or the antiestablishment overtones of the 1967 movie. By chasing after the truth – elusive as it is – Guinn has created a profound human tragedy that is far more resonant than the fables that have come before.
Profile Image for Scott.
1,749 reviews123 followers
November 1, 2021
"As Bonnie [Parker] had predicted in her poem, she and Clyde [Barrow] did go down together. But she could never have anticipated the extent of the mythology that would continue to grow about them." -- page 348

I suppose director Arthur Penn's 1967 cinematic critical and commercial success Bonnie and Clyde - starring then-relative newcomers Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway - sort of established the idea of the romantic outlaw duo and their ragtag cohorts for the public at large. (However - and not unusual for a Hollywood production - the screenplay was really only 'inspired by' actual people and events, and took a number of extreme liberties in the presented story.) Author Guinn's work - the kind of book I refer to as exhaustively detailed but sometimes just exhausting - aims to give a much more accurate telling of their life story. However, while the author notes how the gang became folk heroes to some of the downtrodden U.S. population during the agonizing throes of the Great Depression, he also seems to fall a little too often into the same admiration or 'hear no evil' opinion of their activities, in effect glamorizing a group of unrepentant criminals that have few redeeming values.

At the risk of sounding like a moral guardian, I was bothered by the incalculable number of car thefts, kidnappings and armed robberies (often involving small town banks, grocery stores and gas stations - with the latter two types of businesses often privately owned by working class folks who were in dire straits due to the aforementioned Great Depression) that the Barrow Gang committed across the midwestern U.S. during 1932 to 1934. And then there are their murders - including two highway patrolmen who were sadly and cold-bloodedly gunned down, and only because they were innocently checking to see if the Barrow gang's car had broken down (the officers had not recognized the gang, and were not even trying to apprehend them at the time) - plus some other violent acts - like when teen gang member W.D. Jones intentionally fired his shotgun at a young mother holding her baby, but fortunately only caused some superficial wounds - which were rather appalling. That author Guinn includes lines such as "Once again someone was dead, and the Barrow Gang was on the run . . . " (page 204) or "Clyde Barrow had trouble driving in the mud around State Road, and that was why yet another lawmen died" (page 290) was irksome because the Barrow Gang were not killing people by mistake or accident, it was deliberate. So while this was a fairly well-written biographical-history book, it often seems too forgiving of the illegal / irresponsible actions of the title characters.
Profile Image for Char.
1,638 reviews1,488 followers
September 21, 2017
Turns out that a lot of things I thought I knew about Bonnie and Clyde were not true. They were not a tall and handsome couple like Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. They were also not very smart-both of them spent some in jail and for Clyde that was some hard time. I guess that old adage is right: crime does not pay.

I started to list here all the things I learned from this book, but then I realized that would be spoiling things for everyone else. I decided I'm just going to stick to the main points:

They were not smart criminals. They were repeatedly jailed, chased, shot at, etc... They were often injured in these gunfights with police and when I say injured, I mean badly hurt. They were great at stealing cars though, and Clyde liked the Ford V-8's so much he wrote Henry Ford a fan letter about them.

They loved their families and made arrangements to see them often: which just illustrates how clueless and unprepared the law was for fugitives like these. They didn't stake out the houses of Clyde or Bonnie's mothers or their other relatives, until near the very end. If only they had done that, many lives could have been saved.

Clyde and Bonnie loved lavishing their relatives with money and gifts, (when they could), and they both liked to dress nicely. That was about the only luxury they could enjoy, because they were almost always on the run, never able to relax or enjoy themselves. Most of their robberies netted them so little in the way of booty, they were hardly worth the trouble.

Lastly, they truly did love each other. When Bonnie's leg was badly injured, (due to a car chase and subsequent wreck where battery acid leaked all over her), Clyde forever after carried her wherever she needed to go. Bonnie's poetry and writing all showed that she knew they would both come to a bad end, but she loved him and wanted to be with him, even in death. So, I guess that one part of the Hollywood myth is true.

I listened to the audio version of this book. It was detailed, but not too much, and the narrator even added a little humor when the time was right. I learned a lot. Recommended!
Profile Image for Tom.
198 reviews41 followers
July 29, 2022
One of my favourite things about history books is their ability to demythologize and clarify stories that have been routinely misrepresented in pop culture and the public consciousness. Jeff Guinn's Go Down Together, like his other book The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple , is a riveting example of this, capturing the grim reality of the Bonnie and Clyde story not reflected in the romanticised narratives. That Guinn achieves this without making the story any less compelling is the cherry on top.
Profile Image for ♥ Marlene♥ .
1,687 reviews133 followers
September 8, 2016
Weirdly enough I have never been much interested in the story of Bonnie and Clyde. I think many decades ago I did watch the movie but it did not make me want to know more apparently.

That was until now. While I was reading this book over the last few days I could not help going online to look at all the images. The famous image of her,Bonnie pointing a gun to him, Clyde. I love his little laugh and can see on this photo why she fell in love with him.

This book has made me want to know all about them plus it made me cry. It made me fall in love with Bonnie most of all but I also started to see the good of Clyde.

So many stories that were not true but the author of this book has tried to uncover all what was true between the lies and the big stories that were posted in the newspapers so sell them.

This famous photo for instance where Bonnie just jokingly had added the cigar and the gun was the one that made her infamous. They discovered these photos when the Barrow gang had to run leaving all their possessions behind and it was a gold mine for the journalists. Back in the day women did not smoke cigars so from then on she was called a tough cigar smoking harlot which she was not. She hated that they thought she smoked cigars and when asked by someone if she had a message she told him to tell them she did not smoke cigars..

It is non fiction that reads like fiction and I highly recommend.

March 12 2016: Added the photo's of the pair

Disclaimer: I do think what Clyde did was wrong and I feel for his victims and their loved ones.

March 17 Added this review alas without the photos to amazon)
Profile Image for Checkman.
512 reviews75 followers
May 12, 2016
The companion piece to Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34. Bonnie & Clyde are also covered in Burroughs's book, but he got a few details wrong and his primary focus was Dillinger. A few years after Burroughs's book was published Jeff Guin set out to write a comprehensive book looking at the two outlaws lives and deaths. The result is a thoroughly researched and imminently readable biography of the two famous outlaws whose legend is greater than the reality.

The reality is that Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were what is known as "trailer trash" in 2016. They were poorly educated, impulsive, undisciplined, violent, dangerous, immature and fatalistic - which made them very dangerous. With nothing to lose they took wild chances and got away with it for awhile. Their behavior is no different from most low-level criminals of today-to include an inability to cut the ties to their families and friends. Jeff Guin shows all of this in his book. At one point he observes that the only criminal activity that they truly excelled in was car theft.

Often the accounts of the Depression era outlaws will drag in parts. How much drama can you impart to what is essentially an account of people running and hiding? However Jeff Guin has written a book that keeps flowing. Whether that is because he gives equal attention to the lawmen looking for them as well as their families and associates or I was just interested in the material I am unable to say. What I can say is that Go Down Together is a solid piece of historical crime biography. It held my attention and I learned a few things from it that I didn't know before. What more can one ask from a book?
Profile Image for britt_brooke.
1,288 reviews96 followers
March 8, 2018
What a wild and gripping ride! Jeff Guinn is SO good at presenting minute details while keeping you utterly and completely rapt. The Barrow Gang was a truly awful rotating group of criminals, and yet, you almost find yourself pulling for them. It’s an odd sensation. I knew only the obvious points going in. This was a fascinating read.

I highly recommend the audio; superb narration.
Profile Image for Matt Kuhns.
Author 4 books10 followers
November 29, 2012
An absolutely fantastic work, rich in absorbing detail.

I’m far from being an expert on Bonnie & Clyde, so I can’t evaluate this against any other works on the pair. But it certainly seems like Guinn did a lot of research, and used it to very good effect. Unsurprisingly, there’s no Hollywood glamour in the story; yet for a tale of two largely inept, ineffective small-time criminals, it’s a remarkably dramatic and even moving story.

The element of inevitable doom in Bonnie & Clyde’s tale probably contributes a lot to this, and while Guinn makes it a very real presence, he hardly had to invent it; throughout much of their brief criminal careers, B&C knew there was only one possible ending to their story, and were often completely frank and casual about it.

Perhaps the most effective and surprising ramification of this, though, is how Guinn convincingly calls into question just how much Barrow and Parker ever really had a better alternative. The story of their dead-end world in Dust-Bowl Texas, and particularly of the Barrows’ utterly dispiriting poverty, comes across as just unremittingly bleak. Unless the prospects for a young person in Depression-era Dallas slums were significantly brighter than Guinn’s account suggests, one has difficulty seeing any reason Bonnie & Clyde would have particularly preferred lives of impoverished drudgery to brief careers as famous criminals, even allowing for the deglamorized reality of the latter.

In all honesty, though written as a biography of two celebrated bandits, Go Down Together is one of the most effective works of social criticism I’ve read in a long while.
Profile Image for Leslie.
1,127 reviews229 followers
December 5, 2017
“You’ve read the story of Jesse James-Of how he lived and died; If you’re still in need of something to read, here’s the story of Bonnie and Clyde...Some day they’ll go down together; And they’ll bury them side by side. To a few it’ll be grief-To the law a relief- But its death for Bonnie and Clyde.”

This is from a poem written by Bonnie Parker, shortly before the fatal ambush on her and Clyde Barrow in May of 1934. Bonnie wrote many poems during her time spent with Clyde. Most of them weren't very good but this one kind of gave me chills when I read it. Bonnie was well aware by then that there was no other way their story would end. She didn't get her wish that they would be buried together. When they died, Bonnie's mother would no longer even halfway pretend she liked Clyde and she refused, instead having Bonnie buried in a cemetery across town.

If you're like me, your main source of information on the duo was the 1967 movie with handsome Warren Beatty and gorgeous Faye Dunaway. "We rob banks," remains one of the most iconic lines in cinema. Beatty's somewhat bumbling Clyde struggled with impotency but was still dashing and Dunaway's Bonnie was a gun-toting, glamour girl. I re-watched the movie last night and found it artistically enjoyable but highly inaccurate.

What Jeff Guinn did was take us all the way to the beginning. And when I say beginning, I mean before Bonnie and Clyde were even twinkle's in their parents eyes. He get's to the roots of both families. This was maybe the hardest part to get through but, in the end, I found it helped to understand why the pair turned out the way they did. Both came from dirt poor families who had been ruined from The Great Depression. Bonnie's mother fared slightly better than Clyde's parents but both had gone through a lot.

The book is packed full of information that could turn a review into a mini novel. So I'll just say some things I found interesting. They weren't a glamorous, dashing gang, leading a life of luxury. In fact, they were pretty terrible at being criminals. Clyde was good at stealing cars and driving but he wasn't so good at the robbing side of things.

Bonnie wasn't the cigar smoking, guns blazing harlot the press made her out to be. She took pictures with cigars and guns but just as a joke. She was in it for her love of Clyde. Mainly she stayed in the car, sometimes as the getaway driver. Eventually Clyde's reckless driving got Bonnie injured so badly, she could no longer do that. When battery acid burned parts of her leg down to the bone, Bonnie was severely crippled and eventually unable to even walk.

There's lots more in this book. The various people who traveled with them, the men on their trail. It's too much to condense down to a few sentences.

They loved their families and they loved each other more than anything. When Bonnie became inured in the accident, Clyde tried to get her to leave him. He knew that if he was caught, he'd either be shot on site or sent to the electric chair. His hope was that if she turned herself in, she could get medical treatment and at least be given only a life sentence. This wasn't the first time he'd tried to get her to leave and Bonnie's mother had tried many times. Bonnie just wouldn't do it. This book didn't glamorize their crimes but it did emphasize that their love for their families and each other was unwavering until the end.
Profile Image for Jill Hutchinson.
1,459 reviews105 followers
May 11, 2010
Mr.Guinn has done an amazing amount of research to bring the real story of Bonnie and Clyde to light. The film, which has become a classic, paints the couple as romantic, glamorous and skilled criminals. In reality, they were basically bumblers, who stole paltry amounts of money, numerous cars and seemed to kill impulsively. They caught the fancy of the news media of the day and became cult figures.
The author graphically depicts the grinding poverty of the 20s and 30s which drove many to petty crime or beyond. He goes into detail about the families of Bonnie and Clyde and their relationship with the fugitives. An interesting addendum to the story relates the lives, mostly tragic, of all the characters after the death of Bonnie and Clyde.
If you have seen the film.....read the book and make your own decisions about which tells the real story. I vote for the book.
Profile Image for Leo.
4,311 reviews389 followers
February 20, 2021
This was very interesting, I knew very little about Bonnie and Clyde and never seen any more or such about them, but I knew of them. The most famous crime couple that has been romanced about for decades. This book made them more human.
Profile Image for Fishface.
3,083 reviews224 followers
March 12, 2017
I can't recommend this one highly enough. I can hardly imagine how much research must have gone into this immense, blow-by-blow record of the Barrow Gang's crime spree. The author makes constant efforts to separate myth from fact, his entire goal being apparently to show us why Clyde, Bonnie, Buck and their retinue did what they did. This story is all about family ties and unbreakable bonds of loyalty. Not a "sob sister" treatment of their crimes, Guinn holds every wrongdoer responsible and makes no excuses for anyone, but also reminds us that nobody does anything without a reason. I came away feeling I almost knew these people.
Profile Image for Dan.
186 reviews3 followers
April 18, 2017
I have always been fascinated by the legend of Bonnie and Clyde. During the process of reading this book, I did get to watch that 1967 Bonnie and Clyde movie starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway…and that was absolutely ridiculous! Probably a more accurate and much better version would be the 2013 Bonnie and Clyde movie starring Emile Hirsch and Holliday Grainger. But in Go Down Together, author Jeff Guinn attempts to cut through all the “Hollywood Glamour” of the infamous crime couple, and deliver the true story of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker.

The book is very exciting: with two kids from the West Dallas slums, bound by love, battered by the Depression and sticking it to crooked bankers and authorities. Two kids who grew up idolizing outlaws like Jesse James and Billy the Kid, as well as movie stars who drove expensive cars, wore fancy clothes, and played outlaws on the silver screen. They went on only to emulate those figures themselves. It does have plenty of car chases, gunfights, romance and rebellion, along with their gory death at the hands of infamous lawman, Frank Hamer.

Bonnie and Clyde were two kids who sacrificed it all for fame. And did they ever get it! Go Down Together is different than anything you’ve ever heard or seen before about Bonnie and Clyde. If you want to learn more about two of the most famous outlaws in American history, read this book.
Profile Image for Valerity (Val).
956 reviews2,741 followers
April 8, 2015
I've read a few books on this topic, and remember watching the old 1967 movie with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, and I'd been wanting this book for a while. So I finally got it and was pleased with it.

I found it to be true to life, showing and telling us how the outlaws were not so slick all the time, and it cost them dearly at times. Not the super criminals some folks made them out to be, but just learning as they went, and screwing up their fair share of the time. Their so-called glamorous life was often lonely and miserable, spent on the run and far from loved ones and comfort. Just when they'd think they had somewhere they could rest their bones for a minute, they would be spotted or just think they had been, and off they would have to run again. Often having to abandon some of their things, depending on how much warning they'd gotten, leaving them to have to steal more. Or putting their trust in the wrong cohorts.

Medical help was difficult to come by on the run, and they often had to make do with what they could get at pharmacies for serious wounds from bullets, etc. Very fact filled, and so many details. Very enjoyable if you like true crime and history.
Profile Image for carl  theaker.
892 reviews42 followers
April 11, 2014

A recent History Channel movie on Bonnie and Clyde
re-piqued my interest in 'what really happened'.
The infamous couple sparked a media sensation in the
early 1930s and every few years since there is some
type of new show or book focusing on a particular
aspect of their short, bloody, flamboyant criminal

The challenge with a sensational story is that it
generates sensational coverage. It's easy for
someone to make a buck with a headline. I think
the official title for the popular 1968
Warren Beatty movie is :

"The box office and critical success,
but historically inaccurate, Bonnie & Clyde"

Bonnie & Clyde generated so much interest that
everyone and their brother, quite literally, along
with parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors,
and police, did an interview, wrote a memoir, or
book or had something to say about them.

Author Jeff Guinn does a great job of weaving
through all the self-serving tales to come up
with a true as you can get story, and when
things are still a little fuzzy, he explains
why and what most likely happened, and why not.

It's rather amazing how much detail there is
available on a couple of poor as can be people
from that era, Clyde's family spent a couple years
sleeping under their wagon to give you an idea.

Guinn backs up the tale with 60 pages of notes,
which are just as interesting to browse, and
a 16 page bibliography.

Along with a great read, as I live in Texas,
I also enjoyed their many travels through the
small towns of the state and now I know where
to look for this shootout or that hideaway.
Profile Image for BAM the enigma.
1,858 reviews363 followers
June 4, 2018
Audio #51

Book opens up with the exploits and highlights of Bonnie and Clyde 's teenage years before they met and were growing up in poor families during the Depression era. Eventually there is love at first sight and the worst luck of any two bank robbers I've ever heard of during this period. Clyde really didn't want to hurt anyone. I dont know if he thought police officers didn't count since they never protected him? And Bonnie was so in love she did whatever Clyde told her. She didn't leave him even when she became crippled. They meant the world to each other and seemed to have a death wish. People came and went, family members hoped for the best, but Bonnie and Clyde traveled the Midwest until they went down together.
Profile Image for Caroline.
718 reviews121 followers
March 23, 2011
I never really knew anything about Bonnie and Clyde beyond the fact that they were Depression-Era bank robbers, they died in a bullet-riddled ambush and they were played by Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in the film. That was literally the sum total of my knowledge, so this book was a real revelation and I thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, I couldn't put it down.

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.
Profile Image for Mark.
1,374 reviews104 followers
September 4, 2017
I remember seeing a double feature, in the early 70s, that included Bonnie and Clyde and Bullitt. I liked Bullitt, especially the famous car chase but I fell hard for Bonnie and Clyde. Truly one of the great American films. I had always wanted to read more about them, but never did, outside of an occasional true crime anthology. Once I heard about Go Down Together, I knew I had to read it and it turned out to be an excellent biography.
However, fantastic the 1967 film was, it romanticized the infamous couple, casting them as tragic folk heroes. They were anything but. They were dirt poor kids, living in West Dallas, during the depression and Clyde Barrow slid steadily into a life of crime and eventually brought Bonnie Parker, along for the ride. They were not daring bank robbers, but two-bit hold up thieves, with an uncanny way of escaping the law. Clyde also became a cold-blooded killer, gunning down several law enforcement officers. They were only in their early 20s when they met their infamous fate.
This was a well-researched, page-turning bio, meticulously detailing the lives of this notorious couple, their families and the lawmen that finally tracked them down. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Dierdra McGill.
251 reviews60 followers
February 6, 2013
I have always been interested in Bonnie and Clyde and I love True Crime books so when I seen this I really wanted to read it.
Any reader of True Crime knows that some True Crime books will read a lot like fiction and some are more if not all fact based. This book is all fact based. It list a lot of dates, times, places etc.. so it can take a little longer to read. The Kindle edition at least is 366 pages long then there is about 40% or so of the book that is all source information. I read the book part and skimmed the source info as that part doesn't interest me as much but I will probably go back through that part and read it a little closer.
I would not recommend this book if you are not really interested in the Bonnie and Clyde story as it is nothing like what you see in the movies or have probably read about. To me it is more interesting actually but I can see how it may bore some people or be hard to get through.
I personally really enjoyed the book and thankful it was written I just wish that their families had been able to see someone write a true account of what happened.
Profile Image for K.A. Krisko.
Author 14 books77 followers
September 3, 2017
A remarkably well-researched and well-organized historical crime chronicle. This, in my opinion, is how historical true crime should be done. Easy to follow, detailed, referencing primary sources, some new, Go Down Together brings you in close to the main characters without glorifying their actions. Clyde Barrow remains, for the most part, an unsympathetic criminal, despite Guinn's detailed descriptions of the situations and events that led to his path; Bonnie Parker is significantly more sympathetic, although it's obvious that her poor decisions contributed to her own demise. Despite that, and despite knowing exactly what was going to happen, I was on the edge of my seat during the final chapters. I appreciated the family wrap-up, too, and the chapter on how the author obtained sources and which ones he lent more credence to. Recommended highly for historical true crime readers, Bonnie & Clyde enthusiasts, and non-fiction readers.
Profile Image for Charlie Newfell.
408 reviews2 followers
May 20, 2013
Outstanding. Well-researched book on the lives of Clyde and Bonnie (wouldn't become the other way around until the 1967 movie). Two poor 20/21 year olds from West Dallas spend a couple of years holding up gas stations and general stores for $40 or $50, living off the road in the woods or farm fields, eating canned food. What about the glamour of Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in the famous movie? Learning about B&C from that film is like understanding WWII POW camps from Hogan's Heroes. This book depicts the lives of the outlaws and their Depression era surroundings colorfully, the murders they do commit (and others they are blamed for) and the ever tightening noose of law enforcement until they meet their famous end.
Profile Image for Tentatively, Convenience.
Author 15 books194 followers
July 14, 2019
review of
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 14-28, 2019

For the full review go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...

I, like many people, might've 1st heard tell of Bonnie & Clyde when the Arthur Penn movie about them came out in 1967. It's unlikely that I witnessed this movie in a theater at the time because I was 13 most of that yr & had very limited access to theaters. There were none w/in walking distance of where I lived. Stll, I'm sure I saw it in a theater w/in a few yrs of its release. The Penn movie, starring Warren Beatty as Clyde Barrow & Faye Dunaway as Bonnie Parker, is mostly sympathetic to its title's characters & paints a romantic picture.

Guinn's biography is also sympathetic but tries to be more 'objective' & to take into consideration the people that the Barrow Gang killed. As such, the "Prologue" starts off w/ a tribute of sorts to a young motorcycle patrolman on his 1st day on the job:

"Up to the moment he was gunned down, this was a particularly good time in H. D. Murphy's young life. In twelve days he was to marry Marie Tullis, his twenty-year old girlfriend. They'd just found an inexpensive furnished apartment to rent." - p 1

Regardless of how one feels about police or criminals, the death of someone soon to start their married life is a tragic affair. Many people might feel this way about police but how many wd feel that way about criminals? At any rate, Guinn seems to try to examine Clyde's murders realistically. It's all too easy to oversimplify & to let sensationlist gossip get the upper hand.

"Of the seven men who'd died directly by his hand to date—he'd been erroneously blamed for two other murders—only two killings had been premeditated. The first was in 1931, when Clyde used a lead pipe to crush the skull of a fellow inmate who'd repeatedly raped him on a Texas prison farm. The second came six weeks before H. D. Murphy died outside Grapevine, when Clyde helped Joe Palmer murder a guard who'd abused Palmer in prison." - p 3

Naturally, I think that these 2 murders are highly significant insofar as they indicate how prison further criminalizes people. After Clyde was released he wd go to any lengths to never go back in again. He didn't go in a murderer but he certainly came out one.

One facet of this story that interests me is: Did Bonnie Parker ever actually shoot at anyone? It seems that the official police story is that she was a cold-blooded murderer &, therefore, deserved to be gunned down in an ambush. Other sources, closer to Parker, say she never shot at anybody. I tend to take it for granted that the police will lie to justify murder but I'm not so sure that friends & acquaintances of Bonnie Parker wd have such a clear-cut motive for lying about her not being the gun-toting killer she's reputed as being.

I've seen Larry Buchanon's documentary entitled The Other Side of Bonnie & Clyde (1968). In it, Barrow Gang associate Floyd Hamilton is shown being questioned about Bonnie & Clyde. Strangely, the scene is introduced by the interviewer saying that he's going to give Hamilton a polygraph test. That never happens. The person presented as being Hamilton is shown as saying:

Interviewer: "Did she participate in the robberies & the killings?"

Floyd Hamilton: "Only by being present."

Interviewer: "She, uh.. As far as you know, did she ever kill anyone?"

Floyd Hamilton: "No."

Interviewer: "She did not."

Floyd Hamilton: "No."

Interviewer: "Did they tell you about their robberies & killings when you met them on these country roads?"

Floyd Hamilton: "Well, after each crime was committed, gun battle or what you might call it, run-in with the law, we would question them, & they would tell us, in other words, their side of the story."

Interviewer: "& no-one ever said to you that Bonnie had participated in the shooting or that she ever killed anyone?"

Floyd Hamilton: "No." - The Other Side of Bonnie & Clyde

"Bonnie didn't mind having guns around. She just didn't want to shoot them." - p 165, GO DOWN TOGETHER

In Arthur Penn's movie Bonnie is shown shooting at the cops. Guinn partially discredits the media image of Bonnie Parker as a killer.

The footnote for page 152, Chapter 13, states: "W. D. Jones began firing wildly from the car: W.D. claimed in his confession that Bonnie did the shooting. In his interview with Playboy, he admitted that the whole time he was with Bonnie and Clyde, "she never fired a gun. But I'll say she was a hell of a loader."" (p 396)

In the notes to Chapter 15, it's stated that: "But the biggest question regarding the Joplin gunfight on April 13, 1933, is this: Did Bonnie Parker pick up a rifle and start shooting at the police from a window in the apartment? In her unpublished memoir Marie Barrow Scoma unequivocally stated she did: "Bonnie grabbed a gun and looked out the window down at the area immediately in front of the garage. She saw the police car parked there and saw one of the officers behind it firing into the garage. Bonnie fired at this man, but missed him."

"In Fugitives, Clyde's sister Nell says Bonnie told her she fired shots in Joplin, but this admission is part of another long, flowery monologue that sounds supiciously like something editor Jan I. Fortune might have embellished or invented for dramatic effect.

"Yet W/ D. Jones in his 1968 interview with Playboy was also definite: "During the five big gun battles I was with them [which included Joplin], she never fired a gun." Bonnie's mother, Emma, and sister, Billie Jean, were adamant that Bonnie didn't fire even one bullet from the time she met Clyde until her death." - p 398

"One particularly gregarious witness, who claimed to have watched the whole thing from his farmhouse porch several hundred yards away, swore that two men shot down the patrolmen, and then the woman with them fired more shots into the fallen Murphy while her victim's head bounced off the ground like a rubber ball." - p 4

Guinn makes the case that the witness made a false statement & that this statement helped create the media image of Bonnie as a killer.

"Bonnie Parker had been regarded as the sexy companion of a criminal kingpin. Overnight, she was newly perceived as a kill-crazy floozy who laughed as she finished off an innocent rookie patrolman and simultaneously ruined the life of the sweet young girl who'd been about to marry him. The vicarious love affair between Americans and the Barrow Gang was over." - p 5

Chapter 1 gets into the pre-history of Bonnie & Clyde, details of socio-economic misery that it's unfortunate that anyone shd have to live thru. The section that chapter 1 starts is prefaced by a surprising 1910 quote from former president Teddy Roosevelt:

"["]Now they face a new war, between the men who possess more than they have earned and the men who have earned more than they possess." - p 7

Indeed. Interestingly, there was an assassination attempt against Teddy Roosevelt by a man named John Schrank that I've written about in my review of James W. Clarke's American Assassins:

"["]While writing a poem, someone tapped me on the shoulder and said: 'Let not a murderer take the presidential chair. Avenge my death.' I could clearly see Mr. McKinley's features.
- John Schrank""


"Schrank purports to have a psychic experience that tells him that Teddy Roosevelt was behind McKinley's murder. Roosevelt's 1st stint as president was thru his replacing McKinley on his death. As such, it's not necessarily remarkable that Schrank would have a conspiracy theory regarding the murder (I've wondered myself) but that he would have a psychic experience that provided him with the theory! I mean, what do you make of that?!"


"The Spanish-American (Cuban/Puerto Rican) War keeps popping up. Teddy Roosevelt was one of its "charismatic heros" (read psychotic unprincipled mercenary). Not only was Schrank 'visited by McKinley to tell him to kill' the "Bull Moose", he wanted to kill him because he was running for a 3rd term of the presidency: "In Schrank's mind, breaking the two-term tradition was the first step toward dictatorship. Although pleading guilty to the shooting, Schrank explained that he did not intend to kill 'the citizen Roosevelt' but rather only 'Theodore Roosevelt, the third termer.' 'I did not want to kill the candidate of the Progressive Party,' he continued, 'I shot Roosevelt as a warning to other third termers.'" Hate to break it to ya, John, but when you kill the "third termer" you also kill the "citizen" that shares the same body. Putting such distinctions aside, though, I find Schrank's contention of third terming leading to dictatorship to be an obvious 'truth'. Fortunately, it's illegal now - or we'd probably have a member of the Bush Empire serving for life in every available high office. Despite Schrank's murderousness, he was apparently quite affable:

""Later when the panel of doctors announced their insanity verdict, the agreeable Schrank, shaking hands and thanking each, informed them that while he disagreed with their diagnosis, he felt that they had done their best. Similarly, as he was being transferred to the state mental hospital, he thanked the sheriff and a jailer for their kindness adding, 'I hope I haven't caused you much trouble,' 'Not a bit,' the sheriff replied. 'You've been the best prisoner we have had here since I have been in office.'

"As the train rolled across the wooded Wisconsin countryside en route to the state mental hospital, he was asked whether he liked to hunt. 'Only Bull Moose,' he replied wryly.""

- https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...

The families of Clyde & Bonnie were, what else?, Christian.

"The Bible was replete with reminders that Jesus loved poor people a lot more than he did rich ones. Wearing patched clothes and sometimes not having enough to eat were, in effect, evidence of personal godliness. The implication was obvious, if not declared outright: poor people were good, rich people were bad." - p 14

Maybe that's one of the reasons why televangelists have such an easy time bilking their followers.

Clyde, aka "Bud", & his family lived in absolute poverty. This wasn't b/c of laziness, it was b/c of failed farms & greedy banks. For some people, for MANY people, no matter how hard you work you're stuck at the bottom. As much as people are in denial about this, it takes money to make money & all those privileged people born w/ silver spoons & nest eggs are going to thrive while those born w/o are going to crash & burn. So why does anyone fucking wonder why people turn to crime? If they want to get out of the death-trap of their class, crime looks pretty damned good in relation to working some low-paying job from here to infinity. So here are the kids playing:

"And the roles Bud inevitably chose for himself were outlaws. He was Jesse James or Billy the Kid." - p 16

Clyde's father, Henry, was practically the archetypal working-entirely-too-hard-for-too-little kindofa guy.

"So each morning he hitched up the horse and took his wagon over the bridge into Dallas, where he spent the day picking up scrap metal of any kind and hauling it to nearby foundries, which for pennies on the hundred pounds bought the scrap to be melted down. It was a hard way to make a meager living." - p 25

"Everything about Dallas excited fifteen-year-old Clyde Barrow.

"The city dazzled him with its endless stream of possibilities. Unlike tiny Telico, if you wanted to go to the picture show, you could choose between dozens of films instead of just one. Some Dallas theaters changed features four times a week, and not long after Clyde arrived for good in 1925, silent movies began gradually giving way to talkies." - p 29

I remember when I was born people were still black & white & silent.

"Clyde Barrow might love all the fine things in Dallas, but Dallas didn't love him back. As a useful worker bee he was tolerated, but that was the extent of it. In Dallas and all across America, the mid-1920s was a time when social and economic standing was rigid: you stayed where you were born. That was certainly true in Clyde's new job. Almost as soon as he figured out a dollar a day didn't go all that far, he also realized he had nearly reached the peak of his earning potential. The rich people he worked for were glad to have him as a line employee, but he would never be a manager. That was for his social superiors." - p 32

Have things changed that much now? In the 21st century? 90 yrs later? Pittsburgh is rife w/ nepotism & croneyism. The spouse of a well-placed administrator will advance in record-time while someone much more qualified will go nowhere slow.

"Clyde Barrow wouldn't settle for make-believe. The teenager who always had to be in charge wouldn't accept that in Dallas he had no control over his own destiny. He was willing to work hard to have a better life in the city. He'd grown up in the country, where there was minimal social stratification. In rural farm communities, everybody wore the same clothes, went to the same dances, interacted on a more even basis. Now he was locked into a system intended to permanently separate the haves and the have-nots. There was no doubt which category he belonged to, and Clyde's frustration gradually festered into anger." - p 33

& isn't that what CLASS WAR is all about? Unscrupulous rich people not only controlling resources but also controlling other people's opportunities, closing other people's lives in more & more. Revolting against being trapped by vampires is a healthy natural response.

"Some perceived the couple as despicable hoodlums with no respect for human life and property. But to many others, they were heroes. True, they robbed banks and shot it out with lawmen, killing some in the process. But in 1933 bankers and law enforcement officials, widely perceived to have no sympathy for decent people impoverished through no fault of their own, were considered the enemy by many Americans. For them, Clyde and Bonnie's criminal acts offered a vicarious sense of revenge. Somebody was sticking it to the rich and powerful." - p 175

In the Arthur Penn movie, Bonnie & Clyde, Bonnie is shown as passionately trying to initiate sex w/ Clyde to wch he responds in an asexual way. Clyde is shown as having an unspecified sexual problem wch he eventually resolves. In GO DOWN TOGETHER the reader is told that an ex--girlfriend of Clyde's, from before Bonnie, sd this:

"Decades later, asked about long-standing rumors suggesting that her infamous former beau was either gay or impotent, she assured the interviewer that Clyde "didn't have any problems at all," and left no doubt that she spoke as an authority on the subject." - p 36

That, unfortunately, was before Clyde had been repeatedly raped in prison. That's the sort of reality that most people, perhaps fortunately, don't have to think about. Just like they don't have to think about the lives of people like Clyde Barrow's parents & their family:

"Cumie and Henry didn't approve of stealing, but they were loyal to their son. When Buck's trial was set for late January 1929, his parents decided to go to San Antonio to lend whatever moral support they could, and possibly by their presence influence the judge to show leniency. It was 275 miles from West Dallas to San Antonio, and the Barrows couldn't afford train or even bus fare. Henry hitched up the horse and loaded Cumie, L.C., and Marie in the wagon. Tookie Jones, Cumie's best friend in the campground, came along, too, bringing her youngest sons, W.D. and Leroy. They left without even enough money to buy meals. The trip took almost three weeks. Every few days along the way they would stop and hire out at roadside farms where cotton was being picked or some other field work needed to be done. Marie recalled how, during the trip, her father's fingernails were literally ripped off by prickly plants. All seven of them got down in the dirt and worked, though ten-year-old Marie was excused after the first day when her cotton sack contained as many twigs and leaves as fluffy bolls. When they were paid for their labor, they used the money to buy inexpensive food for themselves and feed for the horse. At night, Cumie cooked potatoes and pots of beans over a campfire. They slept under and around the wagon." - pp 38-39

Keep in mind that this was January, 1929, & not a century earlier. If you don't understand that people are forced to live in conditions like this thru no fault of their own then you're really out-of-touch w/ reality. Bonnie's upbringing was somewhat easier but she was hardly a spoiled bourgeois:

"After years of predicting she'd be a famous star on Broadway, or perhaps a renowned poet, she was still a nobody in the Dallas slums." - p 44

Notice that Bonnie Parker had creative aspirations — & why not? Her poetry's more important to me than Emily Dickinson's ever will be — regardless of the latest feminist rehistoricization of Madeleine Olnek's 2018 Wild Nights with Emily in which the completely pampered rich poet who never had to work for a living or do much of anything other than write her poetry is shown to us as somehow sensitive to the plight of the black people who probably never ventured into her rich neighborhood as anything other than servants if even as that. Cancel Culture such as Wild Nights with Emily depict all men as fools but Dickinson's privileged lifestyle was pd for exclusively by such foolish men. Even Emerson is presented as a mumbling idiot &/or drunk but I think I'd choose Emerson's articulateness over Dickinson's any day. The film was designed to convince the audience that Dickinson wasn't a reclusive crackpot. I went to see the film b/c I like her poetry & am interested in her life. I never thought of her as a 'crackpot'. I left the film thinking she was a crackpot, contrary to the filmmaker's intention.

The point of the above digression is that much time & money has been spent on praising the genius of Emily Dickinson b/c she was privileged & can, therefore, be used by other privileged women in Call-Out Culture as an icon to make the pampered poodles into somehow being 'victims' — in other words, people who live in glass houses throw stones from the safety of a smoke screen. Bonnie Parker was dirt poor & worked, at 1st, for a living; Emily Dickinson was filthy rich, & never worked for a living EVER. They were both poets. Parker was murdered by the police state in her early 20s. Dickinson died of natural causes late in life. The Police State exists to protect the rich, people like Dickinson. Parker doesn't seem to get much respect as a poet, Dickinson is fodder for all sorts of glory — including having her mansion be a museum to her memory.

"And that was the problem for Bonnie. Most of her dreams had to remain fantasies. The grandest of them—singing in Broadway musicals, acting in Hollywood movies, writing best-selling volumes of poetry—were virtually impossible, even if she refused to accept it. Broadway and Hollywood producers didn't scout for talent in Cement City. Publishers didn't seek out the next Emily Dickinson there. Perhaps, with her dedication to endless self-promotion and a degree of talent, she might become a star if she went to California or New York, but Bonnie wasn't going anywhere. She had no money to make such a trip, let alone to live on while she made the rounds of auditions." - p 48
Profile Image for Michael .
561 reviews
December 7, 2021
Mr. and Mrs. Warren of 2107 S.E. Gabler Street were in search of a new car. In early 1934, the Topeka, Kansas couple went to the Mosby-Mack Motor Company to see the latest automobiles on offer. It didn’t take long for the brand spanking new Ford Deluxe to catch their eye. Painted a sleek Cordoba Gray and equipped with comfortable seats and handsome bumper guards, Ruth Warren liked how it looked. Outfitted with the most enviable engine on the market—the lean, mean, mass-produced V8 driving machine—her husband, Jesse Warren, liked how it moved. And though the Great Depression was raging, the couple decided the price tag approximately $700, was alright, too. The good times didn’t roll for long, however. A little more than a month later, on April 29, 1934, while Ruth was helping care for her sister’s sick child, someone stole the prized automobile right out of the Warren’s driveway. When it was returned that August by a federal court, the couple found their car in disarray. The car thieves—a “swarthy” man and “girl of slight stature,” as she described them to the papers—had put 7,500 miles on the odometer in just 26 days of driving. Stranger still, the once-pristine vehicle was riddled with bullet holes and covered in blood. But what else would you expect from the last car stolen by Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow? Clyde always liked to steal a Ford car preferably one that was a V-8. He liked them because no police cruiser at that time had the horsepower to keep up with him. With a top speed of 75 mph and his foot in the carburetor he had scores of times in which he was surrounded by law enforcement yet, the Ford V-8 just vanished. As far as Ruth Warren she drove the death car back to Topeka riddled with over 150 bullet holes. The car has since been sold several times, each for a profit. It is on display today at Whiskey Pete's Casino in Primm Valley Resorts, a complex of hotels and casinos about 30 miles southwest of Las Vegas at Primm, Nev. https://i.redd.it/qini608mtfty.jpg That was not the only Ford V-8 that Clyde Barrow stole there were many more. It just happened to be his last.

Jeff Guinn's book gives us the definite life and times of the notorious Bonnie and Clyde while riding in those V-8's. He covers every shootout, big and small, with great care to get the who shot whom, who missed, how bad were the wounds, and all the robberies big and small. It is a huge plus that the man is a very good writer. He brings the events to life even the ones you've read about many times before. I guarantee that you will find bits and pieces throughout the entire book that you never knew regardless of how much you think you know about the pair. Even though they were criminals and murderers, the author takes you into their minds and why they did it. The author does not make excuses or glamorize their lives. In fact, quite the opposite. These were people who came from desperate conditions as a result of the depression, desperate people take desperate measures. Their life on the run was not romantic and they knew things would not end well for them, they would pay with their lives. I had a hard time putting the book down. I was worried it would repeat a lot of what I had heard already in different documentaries- nope! Tons of new cool info! One I would recommend.
Profile Image for Gayle Noble.
1,553 reviews26 followers
March 31, 2023
In this book, author Jeff Guinn, looks at the truth behind the headlines & the folk-myths about the notorious couple. Bonnie & Clyde - as usual the reality fails to live up to the 'glamorous' hype. They were certainly not master criminals, nearly everything they tried was either bungled or foiled due to bad luck & timing. Alongside a jail break (that Clyde got the credit for but didn't actually plan) & several bank hold-ups, most of their crimes were small-time robberies of stores & gas stations. Money hauls were usually small-time allowing them to live day to day, but no massive paydays.

The author does a good job of humanising the two without glamorising what they actually did. Lest we forget, the Barrow gang killed their fair share of people, but we can also see that Bonnie & Clyde did love each other & their families. I found this an informative & interesting read, & the author obviously did a lot of research judging by the copious notes & bibliography, but I was a little disappointed that apart from the cover, none of the photographs of the two found following a botched raid on the apartment they were staying in were reproduced. They are available online but it felt like an odd omission for a work that covered everything else in detail. Overall, great research & well-written.
Profile Image for Benjamin Thomas.
1,953 reviews272 followers
November 20, 2013
As an aficionado of crime fiction, I thought I would dip my toe into the non-fiction world of real life crime. Like many people, I had heard bits and pieces about various criminal celebrities of the 1930s, like Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Ma Barker, and Bonnie and Clyde. Part of my brain realized their real life stories were probably far from what has been depicted in the movies, TV, etc. so at the recommendation of a good friend who studies this era of crime, I chose to read this book about Bonnie and Clyde.

What an eye opener! Forget everything you may have heard or seen particularly if you have seen the movie starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. Jeff Guinn, the author of this book has meticulously researched this saga, and provides an extensive source listing. It’s so complete that it seems almost every line in the text is sourced from a letter, an interview, police reports, etc. Hats off to his comprehensive research efforts.

I was struck by the story of these two people, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. Growing up in the West Dallas slums and maturing only as the Great Depression hit obviously had a huge impact on them. But plenty of other people lived through those exact same circumstances and did not make the same choices. To see how a combination of their life situations, extremely bad luck, their self-image, and extremely good luck led them to their life paths is fascinating reading.

Some tidbits:

1) Clyde Barrow was the absolute leader of the duo as well as of all the reincarnations of the Barrow Gang. Bonnie was really just along for the ride. In fact up until the Warren Beatty movie, they were known as “Clyde and Bonnie” or more often, “The Barrow Gang”, not “Bonnie and Clyde”

2) It’s hard to believe how much the law enforcement community was shackled during that era. Very little ability to communicate, very poor resources, no federal support (J Edgar Hoover was just getting started). They couldn’t even pursue a criminal across state lines. Difficult to believe they ever caught anybody!

3) The overall time frame of Clyde and Bonnie’s time in the sun, so to speak, was really very short. From their rise to national fame after the Joplin incident to their ultimate death by ambush was a mere 14 months.

4) The Barrow Gang (as did Dillinger) continuously robbed National Guard armories to get their weapons. Dozens of times. That seemed far easier for them than robbing a bank or even a supermarket.

5) Up until 1934 when the duo died, there were no penalties for harboring fugitives. Clyde and Bonnie (and other members of their gang) visited their home in Dallas many, many times during their rampage. This was well known by the local police but they simply didn’t have the resources for a stake out. And the family and friends never worried about the consequences of harboring. But, as a result of Clyde and Bonnie’s saga, the laws were soon changed.

6) The myth of Clyde, Bonnie, and the Barrow Gang arose largely due to the times. Depression era Americans were usually desperate for entertainment to take their mind away from their troubles. Journalists of the era were more like fiction writers and frequently printed headlines with no basis in fact. Both Bonnie and Clyde loved reading about their larger-than-life selves in “True Detective” magazine and the newspapers and yet also complained when they were blamed for crimes with which they had no involvement.

Overall, this is a fascinating read. I actually took my time reading it so as to absorb the impact of each chapter. To be there at the scene of a getaway when the Barrow Gang is trapped with no way out…and yet they somehow manage to escape is incredible. And it wasn’t due to mastermind-like intelligence either. Neither Clyde nor Bonnie displayed much smarts in their lives but they sure did benefit from mother luck. Many times various members of the gang were wounded horribly but kept on going. Bonnie herself was almost crippled after Clyde, a dangerously fast driver at all times, slid off the road and the resulting accident spilled battery acid down Bonnie’s leg. After that, Clyde had to carry her wherever they went. Their lives were not glamorous in the least but rather lived day-to-day, mostly camping out and eating on blankets. By the end of their lives they were both extremely thin and, due to various injuries, could hardly stand.

I could go on and on about various scenarios but suffice it to say, real life can, indeed, be stranger, and more unbelievable than fiction. Reading this book has made me yearn to learn more about other “celebrity criminals” of the era.
Profile Image for Wayne Barrett.
Author 3 books107 followers
May 18, 2020

Considering all the other works I've read, and all the movies and biographies I've watched concerning the infamous duo of Clyde and Bonnie, I thought I knew just about all there was to know on them, but I was wrong. Go Down Together is a complete and detailed account of the couple, including the origins of their families and all the other players involved in the story.

I don't recall the exact year, sometime in the late 60's I would guess, I remember seeing "The Death Car" at the State Fair. Between seeing the car, and then later on, the movie starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, I was intrigued with the story of Bonnie and Clyde. There have been many varying takes on the story, but this was by far the best. They weren't heroes, certainly not someone you would want to idolize. They were criminals--murderers, but a takaway from this biography is the picture of their complete humanity. Their life was horrific, and it was sad.
Profile Image for Nick.
29 reviews1 follower
July 21, 2009
This is a well-written, well-researched book. There has been a lot of hype about Bonnie & Clyde, not least the infamous movie. This book will set a lot of that straight.

The only problem is, it's Bonnie and Clyde. Essentially, these were two small-time crooks who were incapable of robbing anything more sophisticated than a gas station or a food store. Clyde, the leader, was a poor planner, when he planned at all, and put everyone around him at risk countless times, while Bonnie went along for the notoriety (although, to be fair, she did "love" Clyde) This is interesting the first three or four times it happens; after that, it starts to get tedious.

That it doesn't reach that point is due primarily to Guinn's ability to tell a story but you still can't make a silk purse from a cow's ear.
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