The following reviews are provided as a guide to anyone interested in learning more about the Wild Bunch. I have tried to point out the best books for those interested in an overall view of the gang as well as the best books for those interested in individual members. If you are just beginning a study of the Wild Bunch, I hope these reviews will help you find the best place to start. WK
DEN OF OUTLAWS, by Bargara Barton, Rangel Printing, 2000, photos, notes, bibliography, 226 pp.
Tom Ketchum, Sam Ketchum, Will Carver, Ben Kilpatrick, Dave Atkins, and Laura Bullion all had at least two things in common. They all lived in or near Knickerbocker, Texas, in the 1890s, and they all ended up on the wrong side of the law. Barbara Barton attempts to unravel the story of these six people in Den of Outlaws.
This book contains some interesting photos, and it may have some value as a local history. But the farther the author strays from the Knickerbocker area, the more inaccurate and misleading her book becomes. For instance, she has Laura Bullion participating in the Tipton and Wagner train robberies and mistakenly identifies one of the real participants in the Wagner robbery, Camillo Hanks, as a woman. She states that Harvey Logan killed two gamblers and two police officers during his 1901 brush with the law in Knoxville, Tennessee, when in fact, Logan never killed anyone in Knoxville.
Ms. Barton is due some credit for investing the time and effort required to write this book, but the finished product has too many errors to be of any real value to serious Wild Bunch enthusiasts.
LAST OF THE BANDIT RIDERS.... REVISITED, by Matt Warner, Updated by Joyce Warner & Dr. Steve Lacy, Big Moon Traders, 2000, photos, bibliography, 176 pp.
In Last of the Bandit Riders Revisited, Steve Lacy takes Matt Warner's original 1938 text and complement it with newspaper clippings, photos, and letters. He includes new chapters about the Castle Gate payroll robbery and presents his theory concerning Butch Cassidy's return from South America. The photos are probably the best part of this book, and the chapter on the Castle Gate robbery has some interesting new (at least it is new to me) information. But Lacy's theory that Butch returned from South America is not supported by any convincing evidence. Lacy's theory is based primarily on two letters, one signed Walter D. Morgan and the other signed Frank Ervin that he claims were actually written by Butch. But neither letter matches the known handwriting of Butch Cassidy. This book may be of interest to anyone who has not read Warner's original Last of the Bandit Riders, but don't buy it just for the one new chapter on Butch.
DIGGING UP BUTCH AND SUNDANCE by Anne Meadows, University of Nebraska Press, 1996, photographs, maps, bibliography, 390 pp.
Digging Up Butch and Sundance is a combination travel/history/mystery book told with a refreshing touch of humor. It is the story of husband and wife team Daniel Buck and Anne Meadows' research trip to South America and their attempt to recover the remains of Butch and Sundance from a San Vicente, Bolivia, cemetery. Well written and entertaining, it is one of the best reads in this field. If you only plan to read one Wild Bunch book, read this one.
BUTCH CASSIDY: A BIOGRAPHY by Richard Patterson, University of Nebraska Press, 1998, photographs, large bibliography, end notes, 362 pp.
With Butch Cassidy: A Biography, author Richard Patterson has made an interesting and useful addition to Wild Bunch literature. Although he presents little new information, he utilizes numerous secondary sources to bring together most of the known facts about the life and adventures of Butch Cassidy. If you are just beginning your study of Wild Bunch history, or if you are looking for a broad view of Cassidy and his gang, Butch Cassidy: A Biography would be a good place to start.
THE OUTLAW TRAIL: THE HISTORY OF BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE WILD BUNCH by Charles Kelly, University of Nebraska Press, 1996, photographs, 374 pp.
First published in 1938 and revised in 1959, Charles Kelly's Outlaw Trail remains a Wild Bunch classic. Kelly used newspaper accounts, court records, and interviews with old-timers, including surviving outlaws like Matt Warner, to tell the story of Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch. Although recent research has cast doubt on some of Kelly's findings, the Outlaw Trail remains a source book for writers and a valuable Wild Bunch book.
SUNDANCE, MY UNCLE by Donna B. Ernst, Creative Publishing Company, 1992, photographs, bibliography, end notes, 224 pp.
If you want to read about Harry Longabaugh, aka the Sundance Kid, your choices are limited. Although he is mentioned in all Wild Bunch books, Longabaugh biographies are scarce. Of those available, Sundance, My Uncle is probably the best. Author Donna B. Ernst, whose husband Paul is a descendant of the Longabaugh family, makes good use of family records, newspaper accounts, and secondary sources to tell the Sundance Kid's story. Her book contains numerous photographs, including several previously unpublished photos of Butch, Sundance, and Etta Place taken at their ranch in South America. Sundance, My Uncle is a well written, informative biography.
THE RISE & FALL OF THE SUNDANCE KID by Edward M. Kirby, Western Publications, 1983, photographs, bibliography, 153 pp.
In the first seventeen chapters of The Rise & Fall of the Sundance Kid, Edward M. Kirby also uses family records, newspaper accounts, and secondary sources to tell the story of the Sundance Kid (Harry Longabaugh). Kirby's story is very similar to the Ernst book with one exception. In the final six chapters, he lays out his theory, and the supporting evidence, that Sundance did not die in Bolivia in 1908. He theorizes that Sundance returned to the United States and died in a Utah prison under the name of Hiram BeBee in 1955. Few in Wild Bunch circles have accepted Kirby's theory, but the mere possibilities that Sundance may have returned makes The Rise & Fall of the Sundance Kid an intriguing book.
LAST OF THE GREAT WESTERN TRAIN ROBBERS by Brown Waller, A. S. Barnes & Company, 1968, photographs, bibliography, 272 pp.
Last of the Great Western Train Robbers is the only full length biography of Harvey Logan. This book is poorly written, disorganized, and confusing to the reader. But if you know enough about Logan and the Wild Bunch to keep your bearings, you will find information here that you can find no where else. Waller did extensive research and traveled all over the United States to gather newspaper accounts, court records, and photographs for this book. So in spite of its shortcomings, Waller's dedicated research make The Last of the Great Western Train Robbers a book worth reading.
HARVEY LOGAN IN KNOXVILLE by Sylvia Lynch, Creative Publishing Company, 1998, many photographs, bibliography, end notes, 176 pp.
I have researched and written extensively about Harvey Logan and his exploits in Knoxville, Tennessee. So of all the books on this list, I feel best qualified to judge this one. In my opinion, Tennessee author Sylvia Lynch has succeeded in telling one of the most interesting parts of the Logan story. Relying mainly on contemporary newspaper accounts and court records instead of secondary sources, she has produced a very readable and very informative book. Although Harvey Logan in Knoxville only covers a short period of Logan's life, this book is well written, contains several previously unpublished photographs, and should be required reading for all Harvey Logan fans.
IN SEARCH OF BUTCH CASSIDY by Larry Pointer, University of Oklahoma Press, 1977, photographs, bibliography, end notes, 294 pp.
In the 1930s, Spokane, Washington, business man William T. Phillips confided to close friends that he was Butch Cassidy. He wrote a manuscript describing in detail his adventures as a member of the Wild Bunch. He also made trips to Wyoming where several people claimed that they recognized him as Cassidy. But was Phillips really Butch Cassidy? Author Larry Pointer was one of those convinced that he was. In Search of Butch Cassidy is Pointer's analysis of the William T. Phillips' manuscript. A well written, well documented, thought provoking book.
ETTA PLACE: HER LIFE AND TIMES WITH BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID by Gail Drago, Republic of Texas Press, 1996, photographs, bibliography, 285 pp.
Who was Etta Place, and what happened to her is one of the great mysteries
in Wild Bunch history. Gail Drago's Etta Place does not answer
these questions, but it does bring together most of what is know about Etta.
It also puts forth a number of theories about Etta's identity, including
those previously presented by Doris Burton, Kerry Ross Boren, and Harry
Longabaugh Jr. If you are interested in Etta, you will enjoy reading
Gail Drago's Etta Place.
THE TALL TEXAN: THE STORY OF BEN KILPATRICK by Arthur Soule, Trail Dust Publishing, Inc., 1995, photographs, bibliography, end notes, 212 pp.
If you are interested in the Ben Kilpatrick story, Arthur
Soule's Tall Texan is the place to look. Using prison records
and information gained through correspondence with members of the Kilpatrick
family, Soule has written a valuable addition to Wild Bunch literature.
BUTCH CASSIDY, MY BROTHER by Lula Parker Betenson and Dora Flack, Brigham Young University Press, 1975, illustrations, bibliography, 265 pp.
Did Butch Cassidy survive the shootout in Bolivia and return to the
United States? In Butch Cassidy, My Brother, Lula Parker Betenson
say he did. Whether or not you believe her story, her book is interesting
reading. While most people read this book to learn about Butch's return,
its real value is the information it provides on Cassidy's family
THE WILD BUNCH AT ROBBERS ROOST by Pearl Baker, Abelard-Schuman, 1971, University of Nebraska Press, 1989, photographs, maps, 224 pp.
This is a good book. In The Wild Bunch at Robbers Roost, Pearl Baker manages to tell about the more famous Wild Bunch members like Butch Cassidy and Kid Curry without overshadowing the lesser known like Joe Walker and Tom Dilly. Even the obscure and inept Gunplay Maxwell gets his own chapter. Pearl Baker grew up in Robbers Roost country hearing stories about the outlaws that frequented the Roost in the late 1800s. She does a good job of passing those stories along to her readers.
DESPERATE MEN by James D. Horan, University of Nebraska Press (reprint), 1997, photographs, 391 pp.
The first section of this book is devoted to Jesse James and the James gang, but in section two, Horan tells the story of the Wild Bunch. Horan was the first writer allowed access to the Pinkerton archives. But in spite of that advantage, he managed to get many things wrong. So, while Desperate Men was a major step forward when it was published in 1949, it has been surpassed in recent years by books like Patterson's Butch Cassidy.
A great book from someone with first hand knowledge of the Curry brothers, Jim Thornhill, Pike Landusky, and the Little Rockies. Some inaccuracies, but generally reliable.
Although Warner was never a member of the Wild Bunch, he did team up
with Butch Cassidy and Tom McCarty to rob the Telluride, Colorado bank in
1889. His outlaw career was interrupted by a prison term in 1896, and
by the time he was released the Wild Bunch era was drawing to a close. Not
always accurate, but worth reading.
THE WILD BUNCH, Anonymous, edited by Alan Swallow, Sage Books, 1966, illustrations, 136 pp.
This book was actually written by Frank R. Lamb. According to the Lamb
family, Kid Curry and other members of the Wild Bunch used their Colorado
ranch as a hideout in the late 1890s and early 1900s. They also claim that
this book is based on the stories Curry told the family. But unfortunately,
it is just another rehash of the standard Wild Bunch story and adds little
in the way of reliable new information.
KID CURRY, The Life and Times of Harvey Logan and the Wild Bunch by F. Bruce Lamb, Johnson Books, 1991, photographs, end notes, 369 pp.
This is an unusual book. And because of its unusual nature, it requires a more thorough examination than that given to the other books. According to author, F. Bruce Lamb, Kid Curry was based on the same information as his father's book, The Wild Bunch, with one exception. That exception was that he combined the family stories about Curry (Harvey Logan) with his 30 years of research to produce the Kid's own story in his own words. Extensive endnotes add to the impression that Kid Curry is a serious work of nonfiction. But the finished product is not the final word on Kid Curry. It is a fictionalized biography filled with made-up dialogue, rearranged chronology, and fictitious incidents. It is filled with errors and is in direct conflict with written statements made by Curry. In fact, the publisher clearly labeled it as fiction. Nevertheless, some writers have ignored the publisher's warning and have used it as a source for their own writings. If you like to read novels, you may enjoy this book. But if you are searching for historical accuracy, you will not find it in Kid Curry.
OUTLAW TALES OF MONTANA, by Gary A. Wilson, High-Line Books, 1995, photographs, bibliography, notes, 211 pp.
This is not just a Wild Bunch book. It has chapters on several Montana outlaws including "Long" Henry Thompson, "Dutch" Henry Ieuch, and George "Big Nose" Parrott. But most attractive to Wild Bunch fans is the long (56 pp.) chapter on Kid Curry. Readers will find good information on Curry, Jim Winters, and Abe Gill.
JOE LEFORS, I Slickered Tom Horn, by Chip Carlson, Beartooth Corral LLC, 1995, photographs, notes, 327 pp.
This is primarily an examination of LeFors' autobiography, but if contains some good information on the Wild Bunch. The chapters where LeFors describes his attempts to capture the Wilcox and Tipton train robbers are especially good.
A COWBOY DETECTIVE, by Charles A. Siringo, University of Nebraska Press, (reprint) 1988, photographs, 519 pp.
Siringo chased the Wild Bunch all over the United States but never caught any of them. If you are only interested in Wild Bunch information, don't bother reading this one.
HELL'S HALF ACRE, by Richard F. Selcer, Texas Christian University Press, 1991, photographs, bibliography, 364 pp.
Hell's Half Acre is a well-written, well-documented history of Fort Worth's Red-Light District. But the one chapter about the Wild Bunch's activities in Fort Worth has little to offer Wild Bunch fans.
THE AUTHENTIC WILD WEST: THE OUTLAWS, by James D. Horan, Gramercy Books, 1995 edition, photographs, bibliography, notes, 312 pp.
Good 63-page chapter on Cassidy and the Wild Bunch. Many good photos.
THE AUTHENTIC WILD WEST: THE GUNFIGHTERS, by James D. Horan, Gramercy Books, 1994 edition, photographs, bibliography, notes, 312 pp.
Good 33-page chapter on Kid Curry. Good photos. Also has chapter on Harry Tracy.
RECOLLECTIONS OF A WESTERN RANCHMAN, Captain William French, High-Lonesome Books, 1990, 283 pp. The last two chapters (33 pp.) tell of French's experiences with Cassidy and other Wild Bunch members who worked for him at the W S Ranch in New Mexico.
WE POINTED THEM NORTH: RECOLLECTIONS OF A COWPUNCHER, by E. C. Abbott and Helena Huntington Smith, Farra & Rinehrt, 1939, 281 pp.
Has some information on Pike Landusky and Kid Curry.
BLACK JACK KETCHUM, LAST OF THE HOLD-UP KINGS, by Ed Bartholomew, Frontier Press, 1955, 116 pp.
Has information about Ben Kilpatrick and Will Carver. Tells about killing of George Scarborough by Wild Bunch. Mistakenly says Cassidy and Sundance took part in Wagner robbery.
WHERE THE OLD WEST STAYED YOUNG, by John Rolfe Burroughs, Bonanza Books, 1962, 376 pp.
A good history of Brown's Park with information about Cassidy, Lay, and Kid Curry.