cover image Butch Cassidy: A Biography

Butch Cassidy: A Biography

Richard Patterson. Bison Books, $21.95 (372pp) ISBN 978-0-8032-8756-3

Butch Cassidy had many names. Born into a devout Mormon family in 1866 as Robert Leroy Parker, he became George Cassidy in 1889 and, a few years later, Butch Cassidy. It was under the last name that he served a two-year prison term in Wyoming and, on his release, became one of the leaders of the gang dubbed the Wild Bunch by law enforcement officials and the press. The original crew, consisting of eight or nine outlaws, robbed trains and banks from South Dakota, Idaho and Montana south to Wyoming and Colorado; they also rustled cattle and stole horses. Eventually, Cassidy was wanted in so many states that he fled to South America with fellow holdup man Harry Longabaugh (""The Sundance Kid"") and Harry's wife, Etta. They lived in Argentina and then traveled to Chile, Bolivia and Peru, resuming their criminal careers along the way. Butch was presumably killed after a robbery in a 1908 shoot-out; Patterson examines and dismisses most of the conjectures about Cassidy's survival. While there is no denying that Patterson has done an enormous amount of research (there are almost 100 pages of notes), the book has one big flaw: it cries out for maps. Even a standard atlas does not give enough detail to guide the reader through the almost impenetrable jungle of geographical detail here. Patterson, author of the Historical Atlas of the Outlaw West, obviously knows the material, but it may prove too daunting for others. Photos not seen by PW. (Nov.)