Among the flood of comments exchanged, within the Bonnie and Clyde historical community concerning Go Down Together-- Jeff Guinn's revisionist account of Bonnie and Clyde History, many remarks have been "pointed"-- more so perhaps than comments made among the general public. This may be true, because more casual observers of Bonnie and Clyde-- may not possess all the facts necessary, to make informed judgments regarding their favorite outlaw history.
Those who know me, know me to be polite but direct-- and I will be here. Having commented at length, regarding Jeff Guinn and his latest "true crime" offering so much over the past year or so-- I feel in actuality, I may have written this review nearly a dozen times. However for those who've asked me for an "official" look at Jeff's book-- here it is. Many of my comments here concerning Go Down Together are newly composed, with some recounted from past writings-- which I've found hard to improve upon. Even more detailed statements from myself and others, concerning this less than factual "True Story"-- can be found here on The Bonnie and Clyde History Blog as well as on the Boodles message board. I along with many, hope these comments will be widely viewed-- as it's important for an "historically" based commentary of Go Down Together, to reach people interested in B&C. Many reviews of this work have been nearly glowing, and conclude with "pats on the back" praise. Not this one.
First let me say, I differ from most who've reviewed Go Down Together-- The True Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde. I am not a full or part time book reviewer for any news or Internet outlet. And frankly, I'm not much concerned with how "good a read" Go Down Together is. If I had a dollar for every time I've heard that comment regarding this book, I might be writing my review from a sun drenched beach on the island of Fiji-- and skipping my cell phone across the clear blue sea. Discerning how well this book flows to wherever it's going, or giving style points-- for how punchy or effectual Jeff Guinn's well practiced linguistics are-- are not genuine interests for me.
For Go Down Together was touted as an historical work, as evidenced by it's clearly stated sub-title-- "The True Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde". No, I'm not one who makes my living writing quick and shallow reviews of books-- just in time, to make it to press in covering the next release. I'm an historian. More to the point, a Bonnie and Clyde Historian. B&C Historians (admittedly or not) may be an eclectic and slightly eccentric bunch, but there's one thing we share in common-- we are passionate about the "history" of Bonnie and Clyde. Also, we're more than likely familiar with a literal "bevy" of Bonnie and Clyde historical accounts, myths, legends and lore-- from the most commonly related stories, to the most obscure tidbits of info rarely or never cataloged.
I suppose Go Down Together, could be called a literary leap for Jeff Guinn. According to Goodreads.com-- prior to this effort, 5 of Guinn's previous books were written concerning the topic of Santa Claus. One of his efforts dealt with vampires. Still another, chronicled the photographic history of the Dallas Cowboys. And yet another, was penned about the game of baseball. So as perhaps Mr. Guinn's first serious fore' into the realm of written history, there was heightened anticipation, in welcoming his new Bonnie and Clyde book. But the truth be told, there's always a pronounced "buzz"-- when a new B&C book hits the stacks. It also seems fair to point out, that in titling his book a "True Untold Story"-- there could be little ambiguity regarding Jeff's intentions to present a rare, new and factual account-- of America's most iconic outlaws.
However it became clear to me early on, that in considering Go Down Together-- I wouldn't need to comment on chapter and verse-- or even choose between multiple pro and con talking points in passing judgment on this B&C work. Rather I would need just "3" elements-- in order to classify this effort, as being a less than relevant addition to the Bonnie and Clyde stable of literary works. As threes are synonymous with strength in history, I've come to call these key elements The Guinn Triad. They are: Mr. Guinn's telling of the ambush-- his labeling of Bonnie Parker as a prostitute-- and an event so astounding to me, it too now has it's own title-- The Guinn Doctrine. This last element, has to do with a "more than remarkable" admission made by Jeff Guinn-- within an e-mail to me on March 14th, 2009. I still don't know, why Jeff selected the fateful words he did?? I may never come to terms with trying to figure out why, he would let this "telling" impression of historical writing-- travel from his head to his fingers and onto an e-mail, to be noted and preserved by me-- whom he knew was critical of his book??
For those who feel my focus too narrow within this review, I respectfully disagree. To me, these 3 elements are so wrong, profound and striking in their lack of diligence and historical responsibility-- I feel whatever good points are contained within the pages of his book, Jeff has trivialized by his egregious errors-- on the 3 fronts I've deemed critical to my opinion of Go Down Together.
The Sailes Ambush-- Many things are known of the waylay executed so memorably, that Wednesday morning in May 1934-- and yet many aspects remain unknown. However, one aspect of the ambush which was meticulously detailed-- was documented by Bienville Parish Coroner Dr. J. L. Wade. His accounting of the wounds suffered by Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker that hot and fateful day, have remained a constant within B&C History for more than 75 years. In conducting his coroner's jury inquest, Dr. Wade made note of the numerous bullet wounds, cuts made by flying glass, previous injuries and other physical characteristics evident in Clyde and Bonnie that day. Numerous photos of the infamous pair in death, were taken, developed and printed by Dr. Wade's assistant King Murphy. Also as noted within scores of eyewitness accounts, the crowded mayhem at Conger's furniture store and morgue that day-- would have provided little opportunity, for anything other than the truth which was witnessed in so public a forum-- to be accounted for.
64 years later, 2 research historians named Sandy Jones and Bob Fischer, would release a report made for limited consumption-- called quite simply It's Death To Bonnie And Clyde. I suppose some viewed this report as ground breaking. However in reality, the assumptions made, particularly concerning the ambush of B&C-- would prove to be erroneous, as they clashed with more credible and well documented events from May 23rd, 1934. Although as stated within this report, it "was" a goal to provide a newly researched account of the death of Bonnie and Clyde-- one of the primary purposes of Jones having examined the Warren car, was to use it as the best model possible-- to build an accurate recreation of itself. From that point of view, the Jones/Fischer report was a success. Sandy Jones built a stunning recreation of the Warren car, which historian Jim Knight later purchased.
However, this perhaps well meaninged report has also caused controversy-- in presenting a version of the ambush which flies in the face of known reality. Key to this fodder, is one singular photo of Bonnie Parker (complete with illustrative arrows)-- which the Jones/Fischer report states, shows an "entry" wound within Bonnie's right cheek-- thus causing the gaping exit wound within her left cheek. It's then somehow advanced, that since there are a small number of entry bullet holes above Bonnie's passenger door-- and that the caliber of bullet may have matched a gun thought used by Capt. Frank Hamer that day-- that low and behold, Hamer must have fired at Bonnie from her right side, as evidenced by the bullet hole in her right cheek.
The problem for these assumptions, is that there was never an entry wound in Bonnie's right cheek. Concerning the perceived bullet wound, Dr. Wade's coroner's report is clear for all to read. The gaping wound in Bonnie's left cheek was noted by Wade (the coroner who examined her that day)-- to be an entry wound, with it's exit made through the top of Bonnie's head. Also as noted within by a number of photos taken of Bonnie "after" being cleaned up, the indentation noted by Jones and Fischer (previously filled with streaming blood)-- was apparently nothing more than a dimple. Dr. Wade had it right, and unfortunately Jones and Fischer had it wrong.
Also regarding the bullet holes above Bonnie's door, Dallas Deputy Sheriff Bob Alcorn-- admitted in an interview made with the Dallas Morning News on the day of the ambush, that it was "he" who fired at Bonnie's door with his rifle. And unlike Hamer, who was "not" known to have had a Colt Monitor at the ambush (that's thought to be wrong as well)-- Alcorn in firing a Remington Model 8-- did possess the correct caliber weapon, to apparently match the holes above Bonnie's door. By the way, it's felt by many that Capt. Frank Hamer used an automatic shotgun-- as his primary weapon that day.
The issue for Guinn, is that he admittedly used the Jones/Fischer report in spinning his version of the ambush. It's never been documented with any credibility, that Bonnie was shot from the right side of the Warren car multiple times by Frank Hamer, in firing his powerful Colt Monitor machine rifle, or by anyone else-- in firing multiple times directly into Bonnie from the right side. To put it politely-- BS. As only left and rear shots were noted by Dr. Wade in having entered Bonnie-- "no" right handed wounds were found.
And before anyone starts spouting off, with conspiracy theory-- to protect Hamer and the boys from having shot the hell out of a woman in 1934, who Hamer at least thought to be pregnant-- don't get me going on that one. They shot the hell out of Bonnie Parker in 1934, who Hamer thought to be pregnant. Plain and simple. I'm not sure what possible motive anyone could have had, for sugar coating what occurred, and making that "lauded" group assassination appear less dramatic-- than the carnage it already was?? I believe Professor Carroll Rich, who knew Dr. J. L. Wade-- in saying Wade would never have been pressured, to do anything he didn't want to do. Besides-- Hamer himself, was witnessed calling Wade a "straight arrow" which in the 1930s, meant an honest man.
Indeed Guinn's version of the ambush, is fraught with shameless sensationalism and inept inaccuracy. This is further evidenced by the millisecond by millisecond analysis provided by Guinn, via the Jones/Fischer report-- of the firing order of the officers present that day. With all the years that have passed, no witnesses left to interview and so many assumptions used (which may or may not possess any hint of accuracy)-- I'm not sure how or why, this "carefully crafted" firing order, would have validity or usefulness. All of these bold assertions sound good I guess, until you realize all were formed from the ballistics, forensics and photographic interpretations of non-experts.
The sensational supposition employed by Guinn, follows the lines of 1930's rumors-- involving Hamer having targeted Bonnie at Sailes for the Grapevine murders, which seemingly had no basis in truth at the ambush. I am aware of a report that apparently exists, which states when Hamer approached the Warren car and saw there was nothing left to do-- that he holstered his weapon without firing another shot. But hey, a monstrous and vengeful Hamer dramatically "finishing off" Bonnie sure sounds good-- and what a splash it would make, especially when picked up and used within a well publicized new book-- which along with this dubious claim, sports other instances of sensationalized supposition.
Bonnie Parker "Prostitute"-- For anyone who doubts the impact of Guinn's book, please Google Bonnie Parker Prostitute, and read the results you find. To me, Jeff Guinn absolutely lays the gauntlet down to be slapped in the face with-- in espousing that Bonnie Parker may have engaged in prostitution. He uses as proof for his claim a poem, allegedly written by Bonnie Parker called "The Prostitute's Convention".
"The Prostitute's Convention" has been thought by some, to have been written by Bonnie when she was imprisoned in Kaufman, Texas in the Spring of 1932. Although the story behind this poem is intriguing, I'm not sure it can be proven with any confidence, that Bonnie wrote "The Prostitute's Convention". Never the less, Guinn used it anyway, even though he "didn't know" the correct provenance for it. That poem did "not" come from Marie Barrow via Jonathan Davis as Guinn stated. The provenance for that poem was said to have been Kaufman Sheriff's Office guard J. W. Tidwell, who signed the 10 poem grouping of poetry, written in a bank book-- of which this poem was included. This book of poetry, entitled "Poetry From Life's Other Side", was allegedly given to Tidwell by Bonnie Parker, while she was imprisoned in Kaufman. It was sold at auction by Bonham's in June of 2006 for $36,000-- reportedly to a collector from England.
Within their preparation for auction, Bonhams offered the opinion of a memorabilia dealer and handwriting expert, who judged the poetry authentic-- by comparing it to a letter believed written by Bonnie for Clyde-- and addressed to Raymond Hamilton, as part of Clyde's newspaper war with Hamilton. As many know, I spent 2 years authenticating The Bonnie and Clyde Signatures. In 2006, when I asked noted forensic handwriting expert Emily J. Will CDE (who had worked on the signatures)-- to look at scans of some of these poems I obtained from Bonhams-- she disagreed with the opinion of the Bonham's hired gun. Ms. Will's opinion was, the very aspects of the handwriting the other gentleman deemed similarities in declaring the poems authentic-- were not unique at all, in that so many would have written in the same style they were trained in, within the 1930's. Emily keyed in on what she thought were more "unique" features of the handwriting-- which she felt didn't jive with the Hamilton letter.
I don't think there's any credible evidence, to support Bonnie being involved in even casual prostitution-- whether or not, "The Prostitute's Convention" could be proven to be Bonnie's creation. Half of the 10 poems within that Kaufman grouping, were "not" Bonnie's poems anyway-- but instead, poems known to have been written by others. Within the auction listing, it's surmised Bonnie may have included these other poems along with hers-- as she may have liked them. It's a "long" stretch to prove a poem autobiographical-- especially one so hard to prove was Bonnie's to begin with. I asked Jeff, since he didn't know the correct provenance of the poem he used as "evidence" in backing a Bonnie prostitution claim-- how he could have felt comfortable in advancing such a claim?? I never got a viable explanation in return.
The Telltale Heart??-- So what is The Guinn Doctrine you ask?? In addressing concerns I had regarding his book, on March 14th, 2009-- Jeff Guinn made the following statement in an e-mail to me-- "all written history is ultimately best guess, and clearly you and I have guessed differently in some instances." No Sir, I don't believe I have-- but never the less, that's the verbatim quote. I say with all respect, others can believe what they want. But I for one, cannot find credibility in Guinn's "True Story" of Bonnie and Clyde, while fraught with blatant inaccuracies-- and defined by such a lax and perhaps arrogant historical credo. Some have jumped to Guinn's defense-- in saying they think they know what Jeff meant, in making such a declaration. But to my way of thinking, there are "3" absolutes within the statement "all written history is ultimately best guess". Thus, as I see it, there is little ambiguity in this astounding revelation.
In addition, so many facts "do" exist within written history. So on the face of it, that statement is incredible and obviously false!! So I don't know what Jeff meant, but in uttering such a concise and well structured statement-- I can only feel he meant what he said. I find Jeff's credo concerning historical writing a self defining, damning and scary one for any historical writer to make. However some seem to now question, whether Guinn is indeed either an historical writer or an original one?? It's been pointed out to me, that some of Guinn's "inner circle" revelations have been used previously by other B&C authors-- particularly by Jim Knight in his 21st Century Update of Bonnie and Clyde.
The Damage Is Done-- But the Fight Isn't Over. As many know, feel I can draw a close parallel between Jeff Guinn and John Toland, in having advanced such controversial assumptions regarding Bonnie and Clyde History-- without apparently having the facts to back them up. Thus I view Guinn as the modern day John Toland. Of course, Jeff may not mind being compared to a Pulitzer Prize winning author. But Toland won acclaim, for his chronicles of WWII history. It's his "odd" book of the lot-- The Dillinger Days, where Toland seemingly strayed off course-- to write a not so well regarded account of lawlessness in the 1930's. But perhaps Guinn too-- may have veered away from his more comfortable base, in writing a book perhaps out of his element?? The shame of this for B&C History, is I feel confident in believing the likelihood of Guinn's sensationalized assumptions-- being as harmful and influential in the future-- as Toland's claims have been from 1963 until now.
As I have in the past I will again-- state my belief, that Jeff Guinn should issue a public apology to Bonnie's niece, Rhea Leen Linder (Bonnie Ray Parker)-- for the shameful way he's disparaged Bonnie Parker and the Parker family-- by calling Bonnie Parker a prostitute without just cause. I also feel it would be the right thing to do, for Jeff to apologize publicly to L. J. "Boots" Hinton, for the USA Today review of his book written by Craig Wilson. Mr. Hinton was misquoted by omission within this review of Go Down Together, which was published worldwide.
On a personal note, and on behalf of so many-- I wish to "thank" Rhea Leen Linder-- for being "so kind" to us over the years, and for helping with her contributions to Bonnie and Clyde History. Rhea Leen may now have decided to discontinue her participation in B&C events and assisting with B&C projects-- due in part to B&C "dirt" being bandied about-- which she finds offensive. I can't blame her for her feelings, and can only hope she'll reconsider her position-- as she is a sweet woman, and important friend to this history.
As all who know me understand-- together with "Boots" Hinton and others, I have been a tireless advocate for accuracy in B&C History. As I see it, Go Down Together-- The True Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde is far from the "True Story" it purports to be. It seems Mr. Guinn has succeeded in revising B&C History, or at least the perceptions of some concerning this history-- but without the proof needed to do so. The problem becomes, in getting past those like me and so many others, who care about this history intensely-- and who won't let sparse diligence and a non-caring spirit, pass for history-- when it's not. Others seem to have their own issues with Go Down Together. For me, my digs are the ones I mentioned. It is not my goal, to make life difficult for Jeff Guinn-- as I have much of importance to accomplish both within this history, and personally within my own life. However within my love for this unique history, and concerning Go Down Together-- my choice became say nothing, and just chalk it up to another bunch of B&C folly being espoused-- or take a stand and join those who would say "the historical buck stops here"!!
One footnote-- I feel it important to say, that I have nothing against Sandy Jones and Bob Fischer, who have contributed historically in many important ways. I just believe in this case, assumptions were made that were unfortunate.
I didn't create the caption or photographs at the beginning of this opinion. But I kind of like them. As the caption so aptly says-- book 'em. Yea-- "book 'em Danno"-- for impersonating a true historical account of Bonnie and Clyde. Thanks for your time, and my thanks to all-- who share the hunger for "truth" in Bonnie and Clyde History.