you know the legends of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, or perhaps
saw the wonderful movie starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, then
you likely know that Cassidy died in a shootout in Bolivia in 1908. But
what if Cassidy had survived that attack and made his way back north to
live out his days under another name? That's the premise of W. C.
Jameson's biography, Butch Cassidy: Beyond the Grave.
In a variety of ways, the life and times of the outlaw Butch Cassidy remain among the most compelling and mysterious of all America's Western bad men.—Butch Cassidy: Beyond the Grave by W. C. Jameson (Rowman & Littlefield / Taylor Trade, 2012, p. 1)
For one thing, Cassidy's outlawry did not result from general meanness or shiftlessness as was often the case with many other notorious crooks of the time. Cassidy's sister, Lula Parker Betenson, once offered the opinion that . . . Cassidy's lawbreaking activities might have been borne of equal parts mischievousness and youthful boisterousness along with a well-developed disgust and resentment of the manner in which large corporations . . . grew wealthy at the expense of the common man and others who possessed little in the way of power, prestige, or money. Cassidy's disgust might have led to a desire for revenge, or perhaps at the very least a perceived need to remind the moneyed interests from time to time that they could be thwarted.
- Premise of biography: exploring the possibility that Cassidy survived Bolivia and lived out his days under an alias in the state of Washington
- Difficulties: teasing out fact from fiction; even his own time, Cassidy was credited with crimes he didn't commit so it's difficult to find the truth
- Characters: Cassidy and his family; fellow outlaws such as the Sundance Kid and the Wild Bunch; law enforcement including the Pinkertons
- Genre: nonfiction, biography; some terrific historic photos
- Writing style & author: Jameson, a seasoned author, has also appeared on the History Channel and the Discovery Channel; an entertaining and accessible style; easy to read
- Controversies: much of the evidence is anecdotal; family recollections and Pinkerton records indicate that Cassidy may have lived past 1908; the authenticity of one possible autobiography has been questioned
- Thoughts so far: fascinating account; I won't know until I finish whether Jameson will convince me of Cassidy's long life and natural death
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