Sunday, August 22, 2010

Investigating The Saga of Bonnie and Desperate Clyde-- A New Twist

As is often the case when some mystery comes about concerning Bonnie & Clyde, I'll place a call to L. J. "Boots" Hinton-- to see if our friend with so many B&C resources, can shed light on whatever needs sorting out. "Boots" and I had an interesting talk, concerning Bonnie's poem The Saga of Bonnie and Desperate Clyde. As said previously-- it appears this once family held artifact, may be a rare and early working version of The Story of Bonnie and Clyde. Although seemingly, there have been different versions of this Bonnie classic published over the years and apparently with different titles-- what is likely considered the definitive version of this poem, appears to be the one published in Fugitives in 1934.

Those familiar with this family told story of Bonnie and Clyde (with help from Jan Fortune)-- know that according to Emma Parker, Bonnie gave The Story of Bonnie and Clyde to her just 2 weeks before she died. A 16 stanza version of The Story of Bonnie and Clyde, was then published in Fugitives later that year. The Saga of Bonnie and Desperate Clyde contains just 15 stanzas, and exhibits notable differences in both stanza order and wordings-- when compared with published forms of Bonnie's poem. Remarkably, "Boots" told me that when The Story of Bonnie and Clyde was brought forth to be published in Ted Hinton's memoir Ambush-- that Billie Parker allowed it to be used for the book, provided it was published in the right order and with all 16 stanzas present, including it's "missing" stanza.

So the plot thickens. It seems Ted Hinton may have also had a 15 stanza version of this poem (or Billie made him aware of one)-- and Billie was insistent, that based on her knowledge of Bonnie's poem-- she wanted the 16 stanza version used for publication in Ambush. Billie's comments concerning this, more than imply to me that there "was"-- a known alternate version of The Story of Bonnie and Clyde.

As Billie seemed aware of a 15 stanza version with it's stanzas in alternate order, my question is was that version The Saga of Bonnie and Desperate Clyde??-- and based on this poem's provenance-- possibly this very copy of Bonnie's poem?? "Boots" asked a good question, in wondering what influence if any Jan Fortune may have had on Bonnie's poetry and it's publication?? Jan Fortune's influence on the content of Fugitives, has long been the focus of speculation.

The "missing" stanza as Billie put it, appears to have been the stanza referring to the West Dallas Viaduct. "Boots" is searching for the rendering of Bonnie's poem used in Ted's manuscript. It's unclear to me, whether all this was discussed with Billie in advance of her supplying what she felt was the correct version of Bonnie's poem-- or whether there was indeed another copy of an alternate Story of Bonnie and Clyde outside the family?? Could Jan Fortune have played some role, in editing Bonnie's poem at some point??-- or had Bonnie's earlier draft already been refined by Bonnie, and presented to Emma in completed form?? That also leaves the question, of who in the family originally had this seemingly unfinished Saga of Bonnie and Desperate Clyde.

With family accounts of this part of B&C History seemingly known, I don't see how any version of this poem would have been published prior to Bonnie's death-- but with the True Detective magazines so active at that time and money tight, I suppose anything's possible. The families are documented, to have participated in that traveling sideshow of sorts back in the day-- comprised of notorious outlaw family members. I'm not sure how much more I can learn about this, but so far so good. I'm anxious to learn more of this if I can.


BarefootOkieGal said...

You brought up an interesting point about the "True Detective"-type magazines and how tight cash was... you know, it's possible that a family member or friend with a copy of the poem may have decided to sell it (or other poetry or writings) for cold, hard cash - I would imagine, though, that if someone had done so, and made it known that the poem was actually written BY Bonnie Parker, the magazine which contained it would be a pretty valuable one, and probably would not have gone hidden so long. Just a little while ago you posted a poem about Clyde that someone else had written, and I'm pretty sure that they were sources of poetic inspiration for more than just that one person. I would imagine that there was more than one poem floating around that mentioned B&C, and the detective rags of the day would surely have printed them, but if someone did turn in Bonnie's poem and it had been printed, I'd have expected someone to have come forth with that magazine by now - after all, that is a pretty well-known poem!

It just occurred to me that it may have appealed to Bonnie's sense of humor (and her sense of history!) to have sent the poem out to a magazine, anonymously, just to see if it would be printed!

Bonnie seems to have worked on this poem quite a bit, and it would be nice to know what, in her mind, the "finished" version was...

A. Winston Woodward said...

Hello Cindy--

I'm very curious about The Saga of Bonnie and Desperate Clyde. It now seems certain, at least Billie was aware of a 15 stanza version of The Story of Bonnie and Clyde. I would think it entirely possible, that a "work in progress" version of Bonnie's poem was given to Billie or another family member at some point-- with Bonnie giving the completed poem to Emma near the end. What role Jan Fortune played in working with The Story of Bonnie and Clyde is unknown-- just as her other role(s) in the writing of Fugitives is unknown as well.

The fact Billie mentioned a missing 16th stanza, and her insistence that the stanzas be placed in their correct order concerning the poem's use in Ambush-- to me speaks of "The Saga" being an earlier version of Bonnie's poem, which she seemed aware of. No matter the circumstance, just as with a number of B&C artifacts which have surfaced recently-- I think it's "wonderful" that this alternate version of The Story of Bonnie and Clyde still exists.

BarefootOkieGal said...

It is interesting that apparently Bonnie changed the original title, too - or was she the one who titled the completed version "The Story of Bonnie and Clyde?"

"The Story of Bonnie and Clyde" scans a lot better than "The Saga of Bonnie and Desperate Clyde" - but could that be because Bonnie decided the shorter title sounded better and had a better "ring" to it, or was the new title given to the poem by someone else - perhaps Jan Fortune? I think that Bonnie had a good ear for rhyme and rhythm (despite what some of her detractors have said) and I think that the title may have been something she changed on her own. It's interesting to me that when they were alive, they were most often referred to as "Clyde and Bonnie," not "Bonnie and Clyde." I think this poem very well may have changed that in the public eye, because quite frankly, "Bonnie and Clyde" has a more poetic ring to it than "Clyde and Bonnie" - and, as I read recently in one book whose name has escaped me, she may have reversed the usual order of their names because while not much rhymes with Bonnie, a great many words rhyme with Clyde!

A. Winston Woodward said...

As much as I've been able to tell, it was through a detective magazine article titled The Inside Story of Bonnie Parker and the Bloody Barrows as well as the publishing of this poem-- that today's more accepted order of Bonnie & Clyde became known. It's hard to find many references at all to "Bonnie & Clyde" from the time they lived. The correct order then, was almost always Clyde & Bonnie.

I feel it's hard to speculate concerning Bonnie's intent, or the realities of this particular poem concerning it's completion. It's easy to imagine, Bonnie having perhaps many versions of any number of her poems in advance her finished versions. But although we might think others would respect Bonnie's work no matter what-- I can see others perhaps adapting this poem once Bonnie was gone.

Maybe Emma was given the completed version by Bonnie and Billie had the earlier version given to her by Bonnie as well. As such Billie would be familiar with both versions, and wish that Bonnie's completed poem be published as Bonnie would have approved.

But I keep thinking, I "know" there's an actual physical and olden alternate version of Bonnie's poem which exists. I can hold it in my hand and view it. I know of no such physical version of the "completed" poem. For all we know, the finished version of The Story of Bonnie and Clyde-- could well have gone up in smoke in Aunt Pat's back yard.

This makes for interesting conjecture, concerning the version which has survived.

BarefootOkieGal said...

It's interesting that the version in ""Fugitives" and "Ambush" includes the stanza about the West Texas Viaduct - Billie may have wanted that stanza included as a pointed message to those who HAD "...stool[ed] on Bonnie and Clyde."

Sad to say, I think you're right when you say that the original may have gone up in smoke...

As far as the order of their names - my mom and her siblings, who were young at the time, always referred to "Clyde and Bonnie." People of my age, however, just seem to naturally say "Bonnie and Clyde" - no doubt because of the movie and the poems and other writings after their deaths. (I don't know if Bonnie would be pleased to be named first, or if she would have been indignant because naming her first could have been insulting to Clyde!)

dave said...

Hi there Winston , Concerning any publication of the poem prior to "Fugitives", I had many B+C original newspapers in my collection at one time, and I know for a fact that I had current ones that I believe were either about their death or maybe the mud hole incident with the death of Cal Campbell that had the full 16 stanzas of Bonnie's poem published in the newspaper. They would have been printed either April or May of 1934. One was a Dallas newspaper and the other was a Missouri newspaper, St. Josephs Missouri or something like that. I'm sure I remember this correctly. Thank you.

A. Winston Woodward said...

Good info Dave-- "thank you". That begs the question, where did those papers get Bonnie's poem to publish?? You would think it would have to be from the family?? Or-- did Bonnie actually submit this poem to one or more newspapers as depicted in the movie, before giving a copy to Emma?? With the time frame you mention-- that could be possible.

I would love to see re-prints from either or both of those papers, to check the version of Bonnie's poem used-- and compare language and stanza order. Do you happen to still have any of those papers Dave, or copies of the poems published there??

The more info that surfaces regarding this-- the more it seems the version I have, may be a rare "work in progress" version. That may make The Saga of Bonnie and Desperate Clyde, the only known alternate version of a Bonnie poem. Pretty darn cool. I'm not sure we have any other examples of Bonnie's thought process at work while writing her other poems?!?

dave said...

I'm so sorry Winston, but sadly I sold just about everything on ebay in the spring of 2007. I had a lot of stuff, it was starting to take over. I do believe I have the addresses to the people I sold them to, but it would take some time to find those note books.(We had a fire in March and things are still misplaced) One time on ebay, I took a chance and made a $50 bid on a "reserve not met" lot of 16 complete Bonnie and Clyde newspapers,( I figured it would be hundreds and hundreds of dollars), the reserve was $41 and I was the only one who bid! They were mostly in good condition, a few were a little worn, but they were so informative, I especially liked one that had the Sowers failed ambush incident. It had them blazing away with BARS at the officers as they fled the scene, blaming one of Bonnie's stray bullets for the farmer's housewife that received a wound when a 30.06 round came through the wall of her house and grazed her neck. As for them carrying a typewriter with them, at least 2 of Clyde's letters to law enforcement at the time were typed. Clyde's finger prints were also on them using axle grease or typewriter ribbon for ink. One was about Ray Hamilton and the other one was for clearing Frank Hardy's name from a crime. I wish I still had them, I'd love for you to have seen them. Doesn't anyone else that reads this blog have some of those old newspapers? I surely couldn't be the only one..could I? Anyway, I'll try to find those notebooks and see what I can do with those addresses. Thanks again.

BarefootOkieGal said...

I think it's possible that Bonnie might have submitted some of her writings to a newspaper or a magazine - she could simply have mailed them in anonymously, and I would love to know if the version of the poem that appeared in the papers that Dave mentions was credited to Bonnie or just printed as an anonymous "tribute." I'll bet the papers would have jumped at the chance to print something by one of the notorious Barrow Gang! Then again, it may have been the subject matter that got the poem printed - even if it was considered an anonymous submission, and no one had any idea that Bonnie wrote poetry, at the time B&C were such hot news that almost anything about them was liable to make the papers.

I'd love to see those poems as printed! (I dearly love old newspapers and magazines, not only for their news content but also for the advertisements and photos!)

A. Winston Woodward said...

In addressing the Sowers ambush comment-- now knowing Billie's account of Sowers, it seems unlikely to me that either Bonnie or Clyde got off many rounds of return fire. I would place my $$ on police fire entering the Stovall's kitchen-- not BAR fire from Bonnie. There's been debate, over whether Bonnie would have been effective in shooting a BAR. If you've ever picked up a Browning Automatic Rifle, you'll note it's a long and substantial weapon-- which weighs 18.5 lbs loaded. With so many believing in Bonnie's tenacity-- I'm not sure that debate will ever be settled.

As far as B&C traveling with a typewriter, I don't think there's much doubt about that. Marie has stated so in writing. It's just that no one seems to recall a typewriter being documented as found, in any B&C recovered vehicle or the death car.

I'm looking into the timing of Bonnie's poem having been published in at least one newspaper, around the time of her death. I'll comment further regarding this, when I can gain some consensus about the date of publication of Bonnie's poem.

dave said...

It's coming back to me now as to which paper and when. It was a Dallas newspaper dated May 23, 1934..."Dallas Morning News" I believe. The bold headlines read, BARROW AND BONNIE KILLED. The paper was in poor condition and I managed to repair the front page by filling in holes with written print from some of the other pages and framed it. It actually looked pretty good on the wall. There were many other stories big and small about the slaying, some about Lee Simmons and how he hired Frank Hamer to go after them and how the prison break in January was what really got the hunt started. There were stories about Clyde's youth and how he got started stealing chickens with Buck. Among all these stories was Bonnie's poem and it was the complete one.(It definitely wasn't Mr. Woodwards 15 stanza version, I've never read that one before. It to me is an unfinished version or a version she thought was finished but later made final touches to it. It doesn't roll off the tongue as well). The title said something like "Bonnie Parker predicts own fate in poem" I cut out most of these stories and the poem because the newspaper was in such fragile condition. The poem is gone, I damaged it beyond repair with a vacuum cleaner, but I am very sure of the paper and the date. It seemed to me with all the stories and how quickly they made the press, that they were holding those stories, just waiting for the deed to be done.

A. Winston Woodward said...

So far-- I seem to have at least an Internet consensus, concerning articles about The Story of Bonnie and Clyde having been published in The Dallas Dispatch newspaper-- on May 24th, 1934, the day after the ambush.

There is no mention so far, that this poem was actually published prior to Bonnie's death.

Shelley said...

The long-unknown existence of "The Saga of Bonnie and Desperate Clyde" is indeed an intriguing "new" artifact to marvel over. To me, it seems to be, obviously, a rough draft of the finished poem. I'd sure like to know who this mysterous "VCQ" was!!!

A plausible scenario would be that Bonnie gave this rough draft copy to Billie, then after she made undoubtedly numerous revisions and was satisfied, gave the "finished product" to her mom on their last visit. Good thing, too!

As we all know, Bonnie was a big fan and avid reader of all those true crime and detective magazines. And B&C also kept up with what was being written about them in the newspapers. But I can't recall ever reading anything that would indicate she submitted this--or any of her other poems--herself, to ANY publication. To my knowledge, "The Story of B&C" was published upon their deaths--on May 24th. I just don't see how they could have suddenly surfaced in print so quickly on the very day they were killed, but I guess I could be wrong on that.

But what really has me puzzled most now is this: WHERE did the title "The Trail's End" come from??!? So now we have multiple versions of the SAME poem, with not one, not two, but THREE titles! Would sure be nice to have more definite answers on all this, but as with so much more to the story, all we are left with are bits and pieces of info to try and fit together.

BarefootOkieGal said...

I wonder if "The Trail's End" is a name given to the poem by someone in the press - perhaps thinking that because "The Story of Bonnie and Clyde" was now over, it would be a fitting name for a poem that predicted that very trail's end!

from Paris, TX said...

Hi Winston. I've communicated with you through email about my great grandfather's Bonnie and Clyde story. When we were going through his personal belongings a few years ago we found an original May 24th, 1934 Dallas Dispatch newspaper among his things. It was folded 4 ways and stuck in a Ziplock bag, and unfortunately, with age, it just fell apart. It does briefly mention the poem. I've included the text from the article and a link to the front page. As you can see,it's in very poor shape.

The first paragraph of the article states:
The tale is ended. The story is told.
The prophecy that was penned by Bonnie as finis to her limping ballad on the life of the notorious pair comes true-
"some day they will go down together,
and they will bury them side by side,
to a few it means grief,
to the law it's relief,
but it's death for Bonnie and Clyde.
To the law it's a relief to know that the couple which has been responsible for the most daring depredations, the most hearless murders int he southwest will roam recklessly no more.
To a public which has come to fear their presence in any neighborhood, their death is a relief.

I have the entire B&C portion of the paper (or, what I could read of it, rather) typed up if you're unfamiliar and need something interesting to read.

Shelley said...

OkieGal, you are probably right about that; the "Trail's End" title most likely was the invention of some newspaper guy! I'd just like to know when and where it was first given that name?

And to "anonymous" in Paris (TX, that is)--what a great find in your great-grandpa's stuff! But too bad it's in such poor condition. I have no original newspapers, but I do have at least 4 (maybe more?) replica ones. Two are Bienville Parish Democrats, one is the Dallas Morning News, and the other is...the Dallas Dispatch! But mine is from Friday, May 25, not the 24th. This, nor any of the others, features any part of Bonnie's poem. (There is a LOT to read tho!). An interesting thing about these old newspaper articles: the pictures. In addition to my replica papers, I also have an incredible number of newspaper articles printed off microfilm from various libraries, including Dallas and Shreveport. They ALL include photos unseen elsewhere. Absolutely fascinating! Page 2 of my Dallas Dispatch features a particularly gruesome image of B&C---in one photo--on slabs at Congers, before being cleaned up. Although Clyde's part of the picture looks much like others of him I've seen, I've never seen this one of Bonnie anywhere else before, and boy does she look bad! The caption above this picture reads, "Camera Catches Horror of Bandits' Death". Underneath the picture, it says, "Side by side, bathed in their own blood, the mutilated bodies of Bonnie and Clyde lay in the Arcadia undertaker's establishment, as they had traveled side by side in their career of crime." It'll take awhile, but I definitely need to read all of these many lengthy articles, as I have read MOST of the books. There is always plenty more to learn!

Speaking of learning--Winston, please DO see what you can learn of those "traveling sideshows". Dubbed the "Crime Does Not Pay" tours, I believe these were a production of Charles Stanley, AKA "The Crime Doctor". In addition to Emma Parker and Cumie Barrow (and possibly Henry and Marie Barrow, as well?--Billie Jean would have been doing her years' sentence at Alderson--"camp cupcake"--at this time)--also, Pretty Boy's wife and son, Ruby and Dempsey Floyd were part of this show, as well as Dillinger's daddy--and "paramour", Billie Frechette--and many others, I believe. I've always been intrigued by the aftermath in the dead outlaws' familie's lives, but although they must have been quite sensational at the time, info now regarding these "Crime..." shows/tours seems to be sparse. Hopefully, you can dig up more on this little-known chapter of the saga, and let us know what you find out!

BarefootOkieGal said...

I, too, would love to hear more about the "traveling sideshows." I remember reading about Pretty Boy Floyd's wife and son going on some of these tours in a book that I read about Pretty Boy, but aside from just noting that some members of the Barrow/Parker family had participated in at least one of these shows, there wasn't a whole lot about them in that book, and I don't know if I've read any details in any of the B&C books that I've read. From what I have read about this type of show, they were pretty popular forms of entertainment at the time - with so many gangsters finally going down, and people who had been reading about their exploits in the papers just boiling over with curiosity, I guess people paid good money to see the gangsters' relatives talk about their crimes. Winston, if you find any further information along these lines, I'd purely love to see it!