Bonnie and Clyde: A Love Story

Bonnie and Clyde: A Love Story

by Bill Brooks

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She preferred guys with an edge to them. Bad boys, her mama called them.

Then one night she met Clyde and knew her mama was right, for Clyde Chestnut Barrow was one of the baddest. He had that look: dark, secretive eyes that never looked directly into yours combined with a pretty face and a smooth way of talking and silk shirts that fit him just right. He


She preferred guys with an edge to them. Bad boys, her mama called them.

Then one night she met Clyde and knew her mama was right, for Clyde Chestnut Barrow was one of the baddest. He had that look: dark, secretive eyes that never looked directly into yours combined with a pretty face and a smooth way of talking and silk shirts that fit him just right. He liked her, too. They were destined to be star-crossed lovers who blazed across the hot Southwest in a time of drought and trouble. She wanted to be an actress, and he wanted to rob banks. In an era that gave birth to the likes of Al Capone, John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Baby Face Nelson, Bonnie and Clyde became America's version of Romeo and Juliet—-with guns!

Their love for each other was without rhyme or reason, their attraction and bond unbreakable. They vowed the only thing that would separate them was a bullet. A vow the Texas Rangers hoped to make come true. Bonnie, the beautiful, petite blond poet, was Clyde's equal in every respect. She was his lover and partner and was willing to die for her man. Clyde was tough and agile, a troubled soul of a man who loved only two things: robbing banks and Bonnie Parker.

Whether behind the wheels of a fast-moving V-8 or in the sultry bedroom of a Texas motel, their love and lives were unparalleled in the annals of history. Theirs is more than just a story of a furious, short, and violent life—-theirs is a story of unshakable love and devotion few ever experience.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
True crime meets true love in this lyrical retelling of the Bonnie and Clyde legend. Pretty Bonnie Parker is slinging hash in a Texas cafe, waiting for her husband to finish his prison term, when bad boy Clyde Barrow drives into town. Soon enough, it's a life of crime for both of them. Anyone who's seen Arthur Penn's classic movie knows the story, and Brooks does little myth-busting here. Bonnie and Clyde spend two years ripping up the Southwest, hitting gas stations, mom-and-pop grocery stores and a few banks, and killing lawmen and bystanders along the way. Bonnie, who wasn't just a gangster's girlfriend but a for-real, pistol-packing mamma, was particularly newsworthy to an entertainment-starved audience, and the dangerous duo's celebrity status plays a big role in their tale. Brooks (Pistolero; The Stone Garden; etc.) goes for broke with his smooth prose ("Bonnie watches the window of the V-8 weep raindrops while betrayal buzzes in her brain like a fat bee seeking to sting the flowers of her heart"). A whiff of tragedy hangs over these pages, just as it did over the lives, and deaths, of the lovers. Bonnie writes poetry and Clyde dreams of the next big score as they drive along dusty back roads, first avoiding, then finally confronting the end everyone knows must inevitably arrive. (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Best known for his Wild Westerns, Brooks (The Stone Garden, not reviewed) moves his gift for high melodrama to the 20th-century historical crime novel. The author hits some woodnotes wild in this lyrical take on Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow's two-year crime spree that leaves them dead, she 23, he 24. It's hard to say why Bonnie's so taken with young badman Clyde. He's off to jail soon after she meets him, then out, then she's doing a stretch, then out when he's in again. She's seeing other guys for two years until Clyde finally gets paroled and the two hook up for what will be their fatal joyride of cheap filling-station robberies and grocery knockovers. Brooks delivers a lot of highfalutin' stuff, but, after all, Bonnie's a poet, though her most famous poem never gets quoted here. Clyde, like his brother Buck, has some difficulties making love that apparently stem from having been raped in prison. Brooks never satisfies the reader's curiosity about Clyde's often-powerless organ, though we learn that in prison he chopped off two toes to get himself into the infirmary and away from rapists. Roy Hamilton, their fellow robber, has an eye for Bonnie, who sublimates her sex-life with her adoration of Clyde-though Roy does at last have his way with her. The story outlines are already familiar, and Brooks heightens his version with rhapsodic imagery ("Love cannot pierce wood, nor glass nor steel. But surely bullets can. /And bullets can pierce the heart, the bone, the flesh just as easily./When will love's last kiss come? When will lovers last embrace? / Death at dawn is not exactly expected./ Night is when death feasts. And night is mostly when Clyde keeps vigil. But dawn finds himlightly asleep next to his Bonnie"). Throughout, the star-crossed lovers foresee their doom, chewing on like a sweet black licorice stick. Strangely charming, even the fatal hail of bullets.

Product Details

Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.56(w) x 8.52(h) x 0.59(d)

Read an Excerpt

Bonnie and Clyde: A Love Story

By Brooks, Bill

Forge Books

Copyright © 2005 Brooks, Bill
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780765311887

Love Like Steel
Hear the cries of lonely men. Hear their desperate mourn. Jail doors shut hard like jaws snapping closed, like the gnashing of metal teeth. Snorts and sniffs; the young and weak are prey. Hard eyes watch, their feral lips drawn back in devils' grins as young, lean torsos bend with fear.
"Come close here, boy, let me have a look at you."
Clyde prays all night that one of them won't settle a leering gaze on him. Prays hard, Oh, Jesus, don't let one of them take notice, take and pin me down, take and turn me queer.
He's smallish, slender as a boy, barely five feet seven, a hundred and twenty pounds. No match for the hardened cons with hardened muscles and hardened brains. But give him a gun, a pistol, and you'll see how things even out. But in the joint, no guns allowed. Knives maybe, if you can make your own and hide it from the screws. Knives and fists are all a guy has got to defend himself with from the craven lifers, those men who have long forgot the soft feel of a woman--who no longer care.
"Come here, boy, let me have a closer look at you."
The hot shower's sting of water against bare skin there on display for others to barter over is no relief at all.
Their eyes watch and watch. You're like a dame in those eyes. The lights turned out, what does it matter?
"Come here, boy."
His nerves are a wreck.Every time somebody coughs. Every time he hears footsteps coming down the tier. Every time he hears the groan of weaker men like himself in the night, the slap of a hand against flesh, something goes loose in his bowels. He's seen in passing, guys with knives to their throats, their eyes bugged wide as they are escorted into some recess out of sight of screws. Taunting, teasing, the blade against the jugular takes all the nerve out of you. Some guys learn to like it, he never would.
"Don't move or I'll cut you."
Knowing any second it could be him. Knowing that sooner or later it will be him.
One guy, a young guy named Danny with dark Cajun eyes fresh in from the streets, lasts not even two weeks.
Taken by a big spade everyone calls Chicago Willy.
"Come here, white boy, let me have a look at you."
"No sir. I ain't here to find no trouble."
"I know you ain't. But you see, in a place like this, a pretty little white boy like you needs some pertection."
"No sir, I can take care of myself, thank you very much, sir."
But that night, Clyde hears things. Hears a scuffling sound over in Chicago Willy's cell. Hears a sound like what you might hear when a dog takes a cat--a something "quick" and terrible sound.
"Oh!" He thinks it's the Cajun's shrill voice that says it. Then some scuffling going on, then little cries, like a child being whipped.
Can't be, Clyde tells himself. How is it Chicago Willy can get his hands on the boy? Ain't the guards watching things? But the hard cons know Chicago Willy's got even the guards afraid of him. He tells them he'll keep order in the block as long as they don't fool with him, he'll make their job easy and run things smooth. But sometimes they got to look the other way. Sometimes they got to turn they heads. 'Cause a man has got certain needs, you know? Sure, we know, Willy. Just keep the order; just make our jobs easy.
Scuffling. Sound of fist striking bone. More whimpers.
"Shut up now. Go along with it. Shut up now."
Sounds of a beating down. Every con who has been inside knows the scenario.
Clyde grits his teeth.
Next day the boy is found with his throat cut in the shower--his blood running like red ink down the drain. His small penis shriveled in death. He is as pale as milk. He is crumpled as though having been hit by a car. And whatever his eyes saw in that moment before death, they are never going to reveal.
Clyde writes his mother, pleads with her to get his sentence commuted.
Tell the governor I'm only twenty-one. While he's waiting for a reply, he pays a con to chop off two of his toes so he can get sent to the hospital--someplace a guy like Chicago Willy can't get to him so easily.
Surprisingly, the bite of the ax is hardly more than a burn that dissolves to painlessness. But, Jesus, later his foot throbs like a machine, sends wires of pain up his leg, into his groin, all the way to his brain. Throbs and throbs.
The medico smiles and says, "Better chopped toes than taking it up the ass, eh?"
It's thirteen more years if his mother can't get the governor to commute his sentence. He's only got eight toes left.
A letter arrives from Bonnie.
Dearest Darling, I don't think I can stand not seeing you for thirteen years. We'll both be pretty old! Sugar, what are we going to do? She writes how much she misses him and how she lays in bed every night and pretends her pillow is him and how she holds him close to her naked body and rubs herself against it.
Promise me when you get out you won't do any more jobs, sugar. Oh, and I lost my job at Marco's. They closed down, went out of business. I'm looking for another waitress job, but, baby, they're not easy to get these days. Christ, he promises in endless prayers, if you'll just let me get out of here, I won't do another wrong thing. And I'll tell everyone I know how you saved me from hell. In his heart he feels better, believes his prayers will be answered. Perhaps, he thinks happily, I'll take up preaching in a tent.
He's afraid to close his eyes at night. The pungent scent of rubbing alcohol reminds him of death. The guy with no legs across the ward from him jerks off every night and giggles when he comes. The orderly is queer and has soft hands and offers Clyde certain relief if he wants with a lilting Southern voice. He says that he is from Alabama originally and is serving a stretch for violating morals laws. Whatever that means.
"All you'd have to do is just lay there," he says.
"Get the hell away from me!" Clyde seethes.
Once a week the doctor comes in with a fat nurse and makes his rounds.
"How's the foot?" he says.
"Hurts like hell."
"Sure it does. What'd you expect?"
The nurse smiles pleasantly. She'd be pretty if she lost some weight. She smells like Swanson soap. That night he fantasizes about her while the legless guy across the ward giggles.
The orderly says he heard through the grapevine that it was Chicago Willy who cut the kid's throat because the kid refused to be his lover. Rolls his eyes and says, "His lover! What a hell of a thing to call it."
Bringing with the news is a peace offering of a couple of chocolate bars to which the orderly adds: "Hey, about the other night. I didn't mean no offense. Just that a lot of guys in here don't mind what I do for them, and I sure don't mind it either. But I understand how it ain't for everyone."
The chocolate bars are a real treat and he doesn't hold anything against the orderly, what is in his nature. A guy can't help what he is.
It's just life, you know.
And there in the sterile light of sheets like rows of the dead in a morgue, Clyde Barrow nibbles his chocolate and dreams of fast cars, guns, and Bonnie Parker.
Copyright 2004 by Bill Brooks


Excerpted from Bonnie and Clyde: A Love Story by Brooks, Bill Copyright © 2005 by Brooks, Bill. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author

Bill Brooks lives with his wife in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina where he works as a journalist and teaches at Asheville Buncombe Community College. He is the author of the historical classics The Stone Garden, which received a Booklist starred review comparing the book to The Virginian and Hombre and Pretty Boy, a novel based on the life of Pretty Boy Floyd.

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