"Bandit Invincible Butch Cassidy"
(Reviewed by Judi Clark JAN 23, 2000)
Butch Cassidy, one of the West's most famous outlaws, is mostly known for his exploits with The Wild Bunch Gang (a.k.a. The Hole-in-the Wall Gang) and the eventual Bolivian shoot-out with the Sundance Kid. Even today this famous outlaw eludes us with questions on whether or not he really died in Bolivia or if he came back and lived out the remainder of his natural life as William T. Philllips. Suzanne Lyons does not attempt to recreate the most famous years of Cassidy's life. Instead, she finds more intrigue in the earlier years, those leading up to his decision to form the Wild Bunch gang.
Butch Cassidy started out in life as Robert Leroy Parker. He was the oldest of 13 children in a Mormon household living on a barely sustainable farm located south of Circleville, Utah. Parker had a natural talent for horses and hired on at a local ranch to help his family meet ends. Here he meets Cassidy, whose name he later adopts, and under his influence ends up on the wrong side of the law. Still, looking at the choices he's seen - living the poor life of a man tied to a woman who has a baby every year - and that of a "free" man on the run, Parker chooses to flee from the family farm.
Lyon knits together actual known events about Robert Leroy Parker with an understanding of human nature to come up with a profile of a young man who, for better or worse, chose to live life as an outlaw. Ms. Lyon's twist to this Butch Cassidy story is the focus on Mary Boyd Rhodes as the secret love in Cassidy's life. Lyon's assumes, and probably rightly so, that with Cassidy's jovial nature, good looks and wit, that many women must have been attracted to him. She also assumes that he is the father of Mary's illegitimate baby, a secret that she believes that not even Cassidy ever knew. From this, she creates a yearning love story distraught with missed opportunity and miscommunication.Lyon's also adds the value of historical hindsight to the story. She shows that some of the events that led up to Cassidy's role as an infamous outlaw may really have been a setup by the big cattle ranchers wanting to put an end to the small cattle rustling guys. Throughout the novel, we are reminded that this outlaw never committed murder, was highly regarded by anyone who knew him, cared deeply for his friends and was considered an honorable man by most.
Finally, she bases her novel and borrows the title from William T. Philllips' own account of Butch Cassidy. Through this fictional account she makes a case that Cassidy had assumed many aliases throughout his life, and one more would not have been out of character especially if it would have given him a clean slate.
I am by no means a Butch Cassidy scholar and have no idea how such people would take this version of his story. But as far as fiction is concerned, Bandit Invincible is a fun read about the days of cattle rustling, horse thievery, homesteading and bank robberies. The novel is very accessible, the style familiar - somewhat reminiscent of other biographies I read when I was young. Right down to the canned peaches, the details are consistent with other books that use the turn of the century western frontier as a backdrop. All in all, I like Suzanne Lyon's story of the young Butch Cassidy and hope that her version gets added to the great lore of the infamous outlaw.
- Amazon reader rating: from 3 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- BanditInvincible Butch Cassidy (1999)
- Lady Buckaroo (August 2000)
- El Descondido: Butch Cassidy (May 2002)
- A Heart for Any Fate (November 2005)
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About the Author:
Suzanne Lyon was raised in the Midwest and moved to Colorado at seventeen to attend Colorado College. She worked as a lawyer for the National Park Service, among others, before turning to writing, lured by the landscapes and legends of the West.
She lives near Denver with her husband and two children.