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My old man was a complete sucker for Westerns, be they TV or film, epic, Bonanza or “B” movie, all were equal, all avidly swallowed whole.   Ever the romantic I am sure his dream was to have lead a wagon train of settlers out across the great plains twirling a Winchester, chewing baccy and spitting tacks, even if the truth was that he was more often closeted up in a study full of books eating Swiss chocolate.

So I am certain that “The Last Outlaws : The lives and legends of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” by Thom Hatch would have been just the very book for his precious moments of down time.

Thom Hatch who has made his name on the history of West has turned his gaze onto two of the most romanticised of the outlaws the “Gentleman Bandits” whose Wild Bunch never shot anyone in their robberies. Hatch attempts a dual biography, which is never an easy task, and has achieved a real success.  He is not the first to write on them, not by a long shot.  One might think of  Richard Patterson who wrote the solid Butch Cassidy: A Biography (1998) and Donna B. Ernst,The Sundance Kid: The Life of Harry Alonzo Longabaugh (2009).

Hatch’s erudition is undeniable, and I certainly learned much about the society of the early West but his touch is deft and one is carried along by the sheer excitement of the story.  Sadly this lead to a disappointment both I and my father would have agreed on.  Hatch takes all the argument, all the stories and comes down on the final statement that both our heroes died in that final Bolivian gunfight

It is published by New American Library at $26.95 and deserves a place in every wannabe Wagon Trail leader’s Santa sack.

Copyright David Macadam 2013

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