Bonnie and Clyde: News release and author interview

Breaking news! Bonnie and Clyde never died! Outlaw lovers worked covertly for decades in defense of democracy and the “forgotten man” 

Portland, Oregon, May 23, 2017 - More than eight decades ago, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were ambushed and gunned down by police and a vigilante group. The infamous murder of the legendary outlaws occurred during the height of the Great Depression.

A new novel, Bonnie and Clyde: Resurrection Road, imagines a world in which the young lovers never died, but instead lived on to fight for the working class and in defense of American democracy, one bank robbery at a time. This alternative-history novel will be released in mid-May to coincide with the anniversary of their death.

“In their day, Bonnie and Clyde lit up the American imagination, and for a time, they were seen as antiheroes bucking an economic system that—during the Great Depression—seemed hopelessly stacked against the working class,” said co-author Clark Hays. “We amplified the heroic parts of their legend, allowed them to come to terms with the mistakes they made and the grief they caused, and then thrust them full-throttle into the role of reluctant covert agents. It’s a gloriously improbable and entertaining adventure.”

“Hays and McFall make their Depression-era tale timely with reflections on wealthy fat cats and a rigged economic system that still ring true. More than that, the story is an exciting ride, with tight corners, narrow escapes, and real romantic heat between Bonnie and Clyde. Outlaws become patriots in this imaginative, suspenseful what-if story,” wrote Kirkus Reviews.

The story begins in 1984 when a reporter gets a tip to meet a woman at a Texas cemetery. Cradling an antique rifle and standing over a freshly dug grave, the woman claims to be Bonnie Parker, there to bury the love of her life, Clyde Barrow.

She insists that back in 1934, the photos of their bloodied bullet-riddled corpses and the funerals were faked. Instead, a shadowy organization kidnapped the couple, forcing them into a dangerous and desperate assignment—save President Franklin Roosevelt from an assassination plot financed by a cabal of wealthy industrialists intent on sinking the progressive New Deal policies at any cost.

Rooted in historical fact, the novel builds on the real assassination attempt on president-elect Roosevelt by Giuseppe Zangara in 1933. Zangara claimed to be motivated by anti-capitalist sentiments but a hasty conviction and subsequent death-by-electrocution left unanswered questions about who may have actually been behind the deadly plot.

During the Great Depression, policies including minimum wage laws, legal protection for workers to organize, infrastructure investment, and Social Security accounts were established as part of the New Deal’s aim to protect the “forgotten man”—a phrase popularized in a 1932 speech by President Roosevelt—from an economic system that had spectacularly failed.

Echoing contemporary circumstances, some wealthy elites of the era objected to the higher taxes needed to help fund New Deal policies, accusing President Roosevelt of being a traitor to his aristocratic origins, and arguing against a government role in distributing the economic benefits of capitalism. But deep dissatisfaction with the direction of the country and the sense that captains of industry were driving the country to ruin as they lined their own pockets not only helped catapult Bonnie and Clyde to heroic Robin Hood infamy.

“We didn’t start out to write about income inequality, capitalist flaws or the role of government in mitigating these issues—we wrote a fun book about two young lovers thrown into a historical whodunit that would test their devotion,” said co-author Kathleen McFall. “But it turns out that the cult figures of Bonnie and Clyde are a good indirect proxy to reflect on these topics.”

Nearly a century after their death, Bonnie and Clyde still fascinate Americans, as well as others around the world. Resurrection Road delivers a fresh look at the legendary and tragic lovers as the country once again finds itself facing unprecedented income inequality and popular unrest. 

“In some small way, we hope the recasting of this legend demonstrates the power of story-telling to show the common ground between people, rather than focusing on differences,” said McFall. 

 

An interview with authors Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall

Why did you write this book? To spin a gripping, entertaining and riveting story with broad appeal and, hopefully spark a conversation about the evolving role of government in ensuring capitalism delivers opportunity and benefits more broadly. 

What’s compelling about Bonnie and Clyde? There’s a Robin Hood component to the charismatic outlaw lovers that makes them compelling, but the endurance of their appeal is likely more about bucking a system that seemed designed to crush them and everyone else not lucky enough back then to be born with access to opportunity or into family wealth. They were dirt poor yet boldly (and at times cruelly and selfishly) rejected a life of what likely would have been grueling, low-wage labor jobs with little chance of getting ahead. Don’t we all sometimes dream about throwing it all away and going on the run? Of course, the reality of their day-to-day life was markedly grittier than the legend, and in the end, they became dangerous criminals. But it’s the daring escape from enforced poverty that sticks in the collective American imagination. The 1967 Beatty-Dunaway film helped cement that myth too.

In your research, what did you learn about Bonnie and Clyde that surprised you? We were surprised at their youth: twenty-four and twenty-five when they were killed. They put a lot of living into those few years. We were surprised to learn about the brutal slave labor and sexual abuse that Clyde endured when he was in prison—events that shaped his world view and future decisions—years before the Bonnie and Clyde saga began. He tried to go straight, as they say, after being released but didn’t make it. We were also surprised to learn that they were not really very skillful criminals; they botched a fair number of jobs. 

What do you hope readers will take away from this book? Mostly, we hope readers put this book down a little breathless from the high-octane action, sexy romance, and gripping entertainment. And we hope the story might cause a deeper reflection about the aspects of capitalism that can run amok and the implications of that. It’s about balance, really, balancing the opportunities and protections for ordinary citizens (those who are working to produce goods and provide services) with the inherent drive of capitalism to maximize profit. Unbridled and unregulated, capitalism cuts costs wherever possible which when it’s working well—and applied in market circumstances that respond to these drivers—has excellent outcomes. But it can also end up treating workers as cogs, not people, while delivering disproportionate benefits to those who own or otherwise control the capital. How do we work together to be sure our economic system isn’t a bully?

How is this story relevant to today? Today’s concentration of enormous wealth in the hands of a few at the expense of the many, and the growing anger at this inequity are similar to the forces that catapulted Bonnie and Clyde into their heroic Robin Hood infamy.  If past is prologue, we may be moving toward a pivotal moment in our economic and cultural history.

Bonnie and Clyde were notorious criminals. Is the book letting them off the hook for their crimes? It is a fictional account of their lives but we are sensitive to this point. In the book, Bonnie and Clyde evolve and repent, and actively try to compensate for the suffering caused by their actions. Is that enough? You’ll have to read the book to decide for yourself.

Who do you like better: Bonnie or Clyde? Impossible to choose! They each have their strong and weak points. What’s interesting to consider is individually neither likely would have become legends. The love that connected them so fiercely was—and still—a core part of their appeal.

Why do you choose to publish under a small press imprint? We try to live our principles. Publishing outside the current behemoth corporate publishing model—which by definition has to follow its mandate to prioritize profit over art or social commentary—achieves that in some small measure. 

Is this the start of a series? Yes.