Eighty-five years ago, on May 23, 1934, notorious outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow died in a barrage of bullets as they were ambushed in Louisiana.
Other than seeing the car they died in at Whiskey Pete’s in Primm and watching a movie about their life and death, the outlaws were just a part of history for me.
That changed a little more than a year ago when two Oregon authors, Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall, contacted me about a novel they had written about Bonnie and Clyde that was set in Boulder City. The premise of the book, the second in their three-book series, was what if Barrow and Parker were not killed in that ambush but instead were recruited by a secret government agency to use their “special talents” to foil plots to cripple America. In this particular instance, it was to prevent someone from blowing up Hoover Dam.
I was intrigued.
The fictionalized account of their lives and “redemption” was fun to read. There were enough facts blended with the fantasy to make one pause, even momentarily, to wonder if such a switch could have happened.
As a result, somewhere between the first two books, “Bonnie and Clyde: Resurrection Road” and “Bonnie and Clyde: Dam Nation,” the outlaws became less menacing and more like two misguided souls with a penchant for finding creative (and sometimes illegal) ways for getting out of trouble.
Crazy as it sounds, I started rooting for the outlaws. Perhaps it was because they realized the opportunity they were presented with: a do-over, so to speak, of their lives and they took advantage of their good fortune to help those they had wronged.
Adding appeal to the tale was the time jump between the past and present as a widowed Bonnie tells her story to a grizzled reporter who has just landed the story of a lifetime — and someone was trying to prevent him from sharing the news.
When I finished the books I wanted to know more about who was actually behind the outlaws’ transformation, who were they really fighting against and would the reporter be able to get his story to print.
Today, to coincide with the anniversary of the outlaws’ deaths, the final book in the trilogy, “Bonnie and Clyde: Radioactive,” is being released.
Set 10 years after their escapades in Boulder City during the middle of World War II, it continues the duo’s journey and revolves around their next major assignment, as part of the Manhattan Project. Their job is to ensure that the plans to build an atomic bomb remain out of enemy hands and that no one prevents production of plutonium. Their “cover” for the assignment is as owners of a bar in Richland, Washington, site of Hanford Engineer Works.
As with their assignments in the first two books, Bonnie and Clyde use their past to benefit the future.
I don’t want to reveal too much about what happened because I believe that this escape from reality, even with its roots firmly planted in history, is sorely needed during this political season.
I can tell you that all of my questions were answered by the time I got to the last page and I’ll be sorry to see them go.
The trilogy is available through the author’s publishing company, Pumpjack Press, http://www.pumpjackpress.com.
Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 702-586-9523.