cover image Butch Cassidy: The True Story of an American Outlaw

Butch Cassidy: The True Story of an American Outlaw

Charles Leerhsen. Simon & Schuster, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-1-5011-1748-0

Biographer Leerhsen (Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty) delivers a lyrical and deeply researched portrait of Wild West outlaw Butch Cassidy. Born into a family of British Mormons in Utah in 1866, Robert LeRoy Parker worked as a cowboy at ranches in Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana before adopting the alias “Butch Cassidy” and launching his criminal career as leader of the Wild Bunch. According to Leerhsen, Cassidy and his compatriots deliberately engaged in criminal enterprises, including cattle rustling and bank and train robbery, that damaged rich and powerful corporate interests without endangering the wealth or safety of ordinary settlers. Leerhsen hits all the well-known highlights, including romantic entanglements with outlaw rancher Ann Bassett and her sister, Josie; dustups with the notorious Pinkerton Detective Agency; and life on the run in South America, but enriches the story with a nuanced reading of social and economic conditions in 19th-century America. The Cassidy that emerges in this version of events is more of a populist outlaw than a swashbuckling gunslinger. Leerhsen is a nimble storyteller whose revisionist agenda doesn’t get in the way of crowd-pleasing drama. Old West history buffs will be thrilled. Agent: Kris Dahl, ICM Partners. (July)