Bowie is really just a kid, maybe twenty-one, twenty-two at the most. Even though he’s been in prison–for murder no less–and has recently escaped, he’s not streetwise. He’s actually pretty naive.
Don’t get the wrong impression–he’s a murderer, straight up. And he’s dangerous. But not because he wants to be; because he has to be. It’s ’cause he’s grown up hard and poor. The Great Depression. Lot’s of folks did stuff then that they wouldn’t have otherwise.
Bowie escaped with two prison buddies. T-Dub and Chicamaw. Now those two are a different story.
Take T-Dub for instance. He’s not exactly as mean as he is schooled in the ways of crime. He’s an ole pro. And when I say ole I mean he’s old–about seventy.
Chicamaw’s not that old. He’s the mean one, but if not for him Bowie would have never met Keechie. She watches over the filling station where they’ve been hiding out. Keechie is Chicamaw’s second cousin. She doesn’t like him though.
Keechie’s not pretty and she knows it. But she is smart. Her life’s been hard too, but she’s no criminal. Even so she falls in love with Bowie. They split up from the other two and run off together.
While Chicamaw and T-Dub are womanizing and liquoring it up, Bowie and Keechie are holed up in a little cottage living very ordinary lives except when the money runs low. Then Bowie teams up with Chicamaw and T-Dub and they rob banks.
Edward Anderson was in every sense a journeyman writer. The son of a printer’s apprentice, he wrote pulp fiction and lurid true crime stories for tabloids; and like so many other writers of his time, he–a native Texan–made a pilgrimage to Europe for inspiration. He didn’t stay long.
Back in the states, he traveled to Hollywood and, for awhile, became screenwriter. But success proved to be a big tease and he habitually found himself back in Texas where he wrote for droves of newspapers. And like many other young men of his generation, he hopped freight trains and ate in soup kitchens. He was hungry. It was the Great Depression.
From his experiences as a hobo he found inspiration and wrote Hungry Men, a novel about hard times and the desperation of those subjected to them. Generally well-received, it was blunt and potent, but not without sentiment. Anderson was a skilled boxer. He knew how to pull his punches in the ring and on paper.
As for news writing, Anderson found it to be a mundane, dehumanizing slog–no better than writing for the tabloids. He became distrustful and embittered toward the press. Lots of folks felt like that–resentful and at their wits end. This was during the same time that Bonnie and Clyde were running the back roads of Texas, holding up filling stations and grocery stores for a pittance and, on a rare occasion, robbing banks for good chunk of change.
Except for three things, Clyde Barrow was just your garden variety low-life: (1) he was extremely resourceful; (2) he was an incredibly elusive, highly skilled driver; and (3) his main partner in crime was his girlfriend, Bonnie Parker. In fact, there is little doubt that if it hadn’t been for Bonnie, very few of us would have heard of Clyde and, if we did, none of us would have cared.
Nonetheless, despite the tabloids insistence otherwise, Clyde was the leader of the gang when there was one and the dominate partner when it was just him and Bonnie–which was most of the time. (Clyde had the tendency to be a dictatorial asshole and Bonnie was about the only person that would/could put up with him.)
They both came up hard–their small stature (he was 5’4”; she was 4’11”) was probably due to malnutrition–especially Clyde who lived with his family under a wagon when they first migrated to Dallas from cotton fields of Telico. From the front porch of his family’s shack in a squatters slum, Clyde could see the shimmering skyline of Dallas proper. Unwilling to resign himself to a life of backbreaking work just to barely get by, he turned to crime young. He stole about anything he could get his hands on, mainly so he could dress nice and impress the girls.
About the only girls a guy like Clyde–one that came from the muddy, rat infested dirt roads of then unincorporated west Dallas–could impress, nice clothes or not, were fellow and equitably desperate camp girls. But maybe–just maybe–if he had the right swagger and can do spirit, he might be able to snag one from Cement City, the bleak as hell corporate commune down the road. As fate would have it, Bonnie Parker lived there.