"Full of charm and sly humor, SIDE BY SIDE tells the story of Bonnie and Clyde’s slide from lovebirds to jailbirds—and what an action-packed story it is! Vivid storytelling and a few shots of humanity breathe new life into this notorious duo. This book should be on everyone's "most wanted" list this summer." -- Elise Hooper, author of The Other Alcott
Texas: 1931. It’s the height of the Great Depression, and Bonnie is miles from Clyde. He’s locked up, and she’s left waiting, their dreams of a life together dwindling every day.
When Clyde returns from prison damaged and distant, unable to keep a job, and dogged by the cops, Bonnie knows the law will soon come for him. But there’s only one road forward for her.
If the world won't give them their American Dream, they'll just have to take it.
"Compulsively readable, Walsh’s prose hooks you from the beginning as Bonnie and Clyde come alive for the reader, their exploits leaping off the page. Atmospheric, action-packed, and richly detailed, Side by Side will delight historical fiction fans." - Chanel Cleeton, author of Next Year in Havana
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
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|Publisher:||Tom Doherty Associates|
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About the Author
JENNI L. WALSH has spent the past decade enticing readers as an award-winning advertising copywriter. Her passion lies in transporting readers to another world, be it in historical or contemporary settings. She is a proud graduate of Villanova University, and lives in the Philly 'burbs with her husband, daughter, son, and goldendoodle. She is the author of Becoming Bonnie and Bonnie.
Read an Excerpt
I'm a fool for busting Clyde out of McClelland County jail.
My fingers rest on the typewriter keys. It's my own fault "Bonnie and Clyde" only exists in my head. That's the way it's been for nearly two years, ever since Clyde got caught again.
I breathe in, a cigarette clenched between my teeth, and the tip glows red. The smoke swirls 'round my mouth, escaping between my lips. I can right my wrong. We can be us again, if I can convince the governor of an early parole.
I snuff out my cigarette, glance 'cross the Barrows' living room at Clyde's daddy with a newspaper, and get down to business. I jab my fingers into the typewriter keys.
Dear Governor Sterling:
Letters ago, I searched for that colon. It took practice to remember to also hold down the shift key, or else a semicolon would blot onto the paper and I'd have to start again. Now both my pinkies know where to go. I press the carriage-return lever. The paper turns up and the typewriter screeches as it shifts to start a new line.
With my back ramrod straight, I begin.
I am writing on behalf of Clyde Champion Barrow, prisoner number 63527, to ask that his seven, two-year sentences be served concurrently, concluding at two years —
I press the carriage-return lever. The paper feeds up. The typewriter screeches.
— as opposed to the mandated fourteen years.
Tears well up in my eyes, and I sniffle. The winter air feels too cold, even indoors, even with the fire crackling beside me. Mr. Barrow sets his newspaper aside to stoke it, a distant look masking his features.
On his behalf, I have secured a paying position.
I don't feel even a lick of shame over that fib. If ya want a parole, a job is a necessity — and a challenge to find nowadays.
More words fill the page.
Even if that's not particularly true. I'd say Clyde's more profoundly resourceful, 'specially with his quick hands — on cars, on safes, and on me.
Clyde's daddy ain't more than a few feet away, yet I can't help trailing a finger up my thigh, pretending it's Clyde's touch. Eyes closed, through my dress, I cross the seam of my chemise, imagining Clyde working his palm beneath. He'd smirk. That boy is always quick to smirk. My lips quiver, fighting to keep my face from showing the fantasy running through my head.
I open my eyes, and the reality of where I am — and who I'm without — crashes into me. With renewed focus, I keep typing, line after line, trying to persuade the governor to let Clyde come home to me. Then I can start living again. Then Clyde can, after all he's been through.
I hold down the key, biting my lip, composing myself. I let up, and continue.
Buck, being Clyde's older brother, struggled to relay that to me. His teeth grit and his breath held as he explained how guards are swift to beat Clyde. I cringed, imagining the guard patrolling on horseback around the grounds, smacking the butt of his rifle into Clyde's back. A demand to work harder, faster. Clyde referred to life at the prison farm as slave labor.
"Stay in Dallas, darling," he wrote to me, the letter typed. "I can't have you seeing me like this."
What in God's name does it mean? I've seen Clyde purple and blue, the aftermath of him stepping in when my deadbeat husband came back for me. What makes these bruises different?
I shake the thought from my head and focus on my letter.
I implore you to see Clyde as worthy of reconsideration, compassion, and clemency.
In closing, I add:
Respectfully, Cumie Barrow
Clyde won't let me sign my name, not wanting those guards who read our letters to utter it. His letters to me are addressed to Darling. Mine to him are signed Honey. Pardon letters are from his ma. She's able to read and write just fine, but with both Clyde and Buck locked away, the poor woman's heart is too heavy to find the right words.
The typewriter whines as I rip the paper free.
In her kitchen, I find Mrs. Barrow elbow-deep in a bird. After a quick wipe on her apron, she scribbles her signature with a pen. Clyde's mama gives me the letter and a hug, her thick arms pulling me to her. "Thank you, sweet Bonnie."
Then it's off to the post office.
I ain't more than two steps out of the Barrows' apartment, tacked on to the back of their service shop, when I'm face-to-chest with my much leggier best friend.
"What're you doing here?" Blanche asks.
By the looks of her, she's seconds from plopping down her bag, changing from her beauty shop uniform, and crashing into her borrowed bed at her in-laws. Her daddy only lives a few miles away, but Blanche would rather be with Buck's, being she hasn't seen her own daddy in months on account of the new lady in his life. And her mama, she's long gone. Over-a-decade gone.
I hold up the letter.
She nods, understanding. The way from here to the post office practically has a Bonnie path worn into it.
Blanche offers, "My dogs are tired as sin, but I'll keep ya company if ya want."
A little white something pops from the bag hung over her shoulder.
A little white head, to be more exact. "I'm more interested in that dog," I say. "Where'd she come from?"
"He," Blanche corrects. "I checked. And I named him Snow Ball."
"Ah, 'cause he's all white." For once, Blanche has a perfectly reasonable rationale for one of her decisions.
She scrunches her brows. "No, 'cause this here dog is the start of something good. And more good will stick to him, accumulating more and more. I can feel it. I found him on my way home. No tag or anything, so he's mine."
"And Buck's mama, she going to be all right with you keeping him?"
Blanche shrugs, a typical Blanche response. "Cumie can have some of Snow Ball's good, too." She nods to my letter. "Maybe he'll help get Clyde home."
'Cross the street, Old Jed whistles from his stoop, saving me from pointing out how that doesn't make a lick of sense. Both laces of Old Jed's ratty boots are undone. Really, it looks like Old Jed himself has come undone. But he's still a permanent fixture in West Dallas. Always there, always hooting at the gals who scoot by.
I shake my head, taking one more peek at Old Jed as we head down the cracked sidewalk toward Elm Street. "Somehow, I bet ya that man outlives us all."
Blanche loops her arm through mine. "As long as he's got enough teeth for whistlin', that's fine by me."
We both laugh, but quickly cough away our giggles as we pass a man curled up against a building. A Hoover blanket covers his midsection, leaving feet, arms, and a head exposed. I squirm out of my jacket and lay it over the newspaper that's doing little to serve as an actual blanket.
Blanche clucks. "Bonn, that heart of yours is going to land you on the streets, too."
I raise a brow in Snow Ball's direction, then shrug. Maybe both our hearts are too big, but fortunately, working at the diner's been kind to me after the stock market crumbled and the bank stole all I entrusted to them. Since, I've been squirreling away tips when I can, and I've got some clams in my pocket. Not a lot, but enough.
Too many others aren't as lucky. President Hoover may claim the economy is fundamentally sound, and this depression is merely a passing incident in our national life, but I'm calling his bluff.
There. And there. Blanche and I pass one building after another that's boarded up.
A pang of sadness hits me as we approach what used to be Victor's, the soda shop Blanche and I used to frequent after school let out. I swallow, afraid to look 'cross the street from Victor's to Doc's. I'll look at the three-story building, though. I always do, as if pressing on a bruise to make sure it still hurts.
It throbs: setting my eyes on the physician's office, knowing that Dr. Peterson still practices inside those walls, but beneath the office is nothin' but empty bathtubs and a dusty bar. Blanche and I used to secretly spend our nights there, serving bootlegs. I stood on the stage, feeling the heat of eyes and lights on me. In those moments, I allowed myself to think I could be somebody. That a somebody would see me up there and put me on a real stage on Broadway. Or maybe in a film, instead of my always watching from the crowd. I'd be somebody who was more than poor, somebody who would've made my daddy proud if he were alive to see it.
But no, our country went to hell, Doc's and Victor's crashing along with the banks. Everyone's dreams are stuck in the mud, not just mine. Once in a blue moon, a gal gets discovered at a diner, but none of the fellas I've shown my pearly whites to have fancied making me a star. I reckon I should simply be happy to have a regular shift to work. Many can't say the same thing. Took Blanche a while to find new work, grudgingly charming her way into the Cinderella Beauty Shoppe.
So yes, I'm calling your bluff, Mr. President.
Blanche's gaze is higher up, on a third-story window where she once lived.
I ask her, "Miss it, don't ya?"
"I miss him more."
The wind carries the faint sound of a bell and a ping of a coin into a kettle, and blows Blanche's short hair 'cross her face. She tucks a strand behind her ear. Her wedding band, still shiny and new, catches the sunlight.
Blanche is someone who'll always surprise me. Selfish yet caring. Impulsive yet levelheaded. She once threw caution to the wind, the one who dragged me into Doc's in the first place. "But the wind'll change directions on ya, Bonn," she told me a few days ago. "It can all come back and hit ya square in the face."
That's why she sent her husband off to jail. "Buck," she told him, "you got to go."
While she once saw his arrests as scandalous and delicious, she now sees the police's eyes on him as restrictive. Mostly for herself.
"Do your time," she told him. "Get rid of those warrants out on you. Then no one will be after us no more."
Two years ago, I should've let Clyde do his time after the law came for him.
But no, I couldn't stomach him being away for five years, so I taped a gun to my upper thigh and smuggled it into the prison's visitors' room. Clyde's expression was priceless.
Astonished would be a word for it. He chuckled, dimples showing. "My God, Bonnie, what am I going to do with you?"
I wanted to beam at impressing my man, but I shrugged, and mostly feigned bravado at what I'd done. "Someone once told me that big things await us. But not in here."
Goodness me, he did it. He escaped. We were going to run away together, hide out on a plot of farmland. He knows a bit 'bout tending one since he came from one. But Clyde, fresh out of jail, said it was too dangerous for me to go with him right away. He'd come back for me. The law stomped on that promise when they caught him two weeks later. Then there he was, facing fourteen years instead of five. Clyde would've been nearly halfway done if it weren't for me.
I squeeze Blanche's hand, as much for her as for myself. She jars out of her own memory and drops her gaze from the window of her onetime home.
"I hope you're right about Buck finishing his time," I say, "and having that fresh start."
She says, "When is Blanche ever wrong?" I open my mouth. She adds, "Don't answer that." Snow Ball barks sharply. "Would you look at that; Snow Ball agrees."
Really, I hope the same will apply to Clyde, and no one will be after him once he gets out. Then there won't be a need to hide out on a big stretch of land. We'll start anew in Dallas. But fourteen years ... That's a lot different than Buck's year and a half. I'll be thirty-five. I ain't going to think where I'll be or even who I could be with — 'cause this here letter will work. I hug the envelope against my chest.
Clyde and I will have our chance at being free. Even if Clyde doesn't believe it himself. "I'd leave all the stealing behind for ya, Bonnie," he told me once. "But ain't much I can do 'bout the name Clyde Barrow. You know I'm more likely to find a door in my face than a handshake."
Maybe that's how it's gone in the past, but — for our future — I want to believe Blanche — and her dog. I kiss Snow Ball's furry head, and then set my sights on the post office down the block. Outside, a man from the Salvation Army collects money. I finger a coin in my pocket. I'll drop it in, for good luck.
This will be the letter to get Clyde pardoned. This letter will breathe life into the word free. He'll come home to me. My life will no longer be stagnant. I'll be moving forward, with Clyde.CHAPTER 2
The morning's been slow at Marco's, with few patrons and even fewer tips. I shouldn't complain; there have been tips. But now the diner's lunch hour has come and gone, taking its chatter and commotion with it. I make my rounds, checking on the dawdlers, my heels tapping against the tiled floor. One woman asks for buttermilk pie. Then, coffee in hand, I refill and refill.
Ain't life grand.
Blanche thunders in at half past one. She often comes in on her days off, and the sight of her makes my day a touch grander. I'm behind the counter. She slaps a palm down, bent over at the waist, with Snow Ball tucked under her other arm. Blanche ain't out of breath, but I reckon she rushed here to beat the cold and is now letting her dramatic side show.
I restrain from rolling my eyes. "Blanche?" Head down, she holds up a gloved finger.
I tap my foot.
"Stitch. In my side. Better now." Blanche lifts her head. Her nose and cheeks are rosy.
It's only one word. Yet that one word is all it takes to send my heart beating like hummingbird wings. Problem is, I don't know if I'm 'bout to soar or fall to the ground. So much can happen in prison.
All I say is, "Tell me."
"He's gettin' out."
My Lord, my knees buckle from a wave of relief.
Blanche fishes out an envelope from her coat. "Got it here in black-and-white. Cumie asked me to take it to you. Wants you to be the one to greet Clyde at the bus after all you've done."
It's the fastest a letter has ever exchanged hands. Excitement has my eyes jumping from spot to spot, unable to put more than a few words together at a time. But I see what I need to see.
To be released February 2, 1932.
"Today," Blanche finishes. "Letter's dated a few days ago, but Cumie only just got it. I raced it here, 'cause I'm a good friend like that."
I squeal loud enough for the woman taking too long with her pie to look down her long nose at me. Not like I care.
She says, "I'll even take the couch tonight so you two can have my room. That's how good of a friend I am." Blanche shakes her head. "It's been a while for you two. My goodness, it'll be nearly as long for Buck and me by the time he's paroled. What've I done?"
I roll my eyes. This ain't 'bout her and Buck. It's 'bout me and Clyde. "He's getting out," I repeat, and then a second time at barely more than a whisper. Clock says it's nearly two. I scan the letter, but, "What time?"
Blanche shrugs. "Buck said it took him five hours last trip."
"Five hours. So if Clyde got the nine o'clock bus" — I yank at the bow at the back of my apron — "he'll be here any minute now."
I grab my hat and coat from beneath the counter. Marco isn't anywhere in sight, and I'm not going to take the time to find my boss. Pie Woman startles as I race toward the door.
"You've got Snow Ball to thank, ya know," Blanche calls at my back. "The good's going to keep rolling and growing bigger and bigger. You watch."
I won't say it aloud, but God bless you, Snow Ball. My new life with Clyde starts today. I only pray he doesn't get off — or has gotten off that bus already — with no one to throw their arms 'round him. I run 'cross town, rubbing a hole into the heels of my stockings, and my skin.
The bus station has others waiting, a sign the nine o'clock bus hasn't arrived. I lick my lips, breathing the cold air in and out through my nose, trying to collect myself. I hope Clyde didn't leave Huntsville earlier. Surely he'd have surprised me at the diner, though. Blanche found me at Marco's easy enough.
I turn up my collar against the wind and clench my hands together, anticipating our reunion. Only me, Clyde ... and the army of homeless fellas 'cross the street. To pass the time, I watch 'em. Their cardboard and scrap-wood shelters are a sight to cause sore eyes, haphazardly filling what was once a park. Now it's a community of displaced souls unable to make ends meet.
Hoovervilles, that's what I've heard these areas called. And that armadillo roasting on a spit, I believe that's known as a Hoover hog.
President Hoover ain't a popular man.
But that man won't get a second more of my thoughts. A bus is approaching down the street, kicking up dust. I smooth my hands over my new secondhand coat, then down my long dress. My hat gets a quick adjustment, too, before I wring my hands together. And wait. I wait to see the man I haven't set eyes on in almost two years. I haven't heard his voice. I only know Clyde in the stiff letters of a typewriter and through Buck's deeper tone.
Clyde will be different. I know it. I just need to look deeply into his hazel eyes to know if everything will be okay. If we'll be okay.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Side by Side"
Copyright © 2018 Jennifer Leigh Walsh.
Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part One: Bonnie Parker,
Part Two: The Barrow Gang,
Part Three: Bonnie and Clyde,
Excerpt: Becoming Bonnie,
Also by Jenni L. Walsh,
About the Author,