Charles Leerhsen brings the notorious Butch Cassidy to vivid life in this “lyrical and deeply researched” (Publishers Weekly) biography that goes beyond the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to reveal a more fascinating and complicated man than legend provides.
For more than a century the life and death of Butch Cassidy have been the subject of legend, spawning a small industry of mythmakers and a major Hollywood film. But who was Butch Cassidy, really? Charles Leerhsen, bestselling author of Ty Cobb, sorts out the facts from folklore and paints a “compelling portrait of the charming, debonair, ranch hand-turned-outlaw” (Ron Hansen, author of The Kid) of the American West.
Born into a Mormon family in Utah, Robert Leroy Parker grew up dirt poor and soon discovered that stealing horses and cattle was a fact of life in a world where small ranchers were being squeezed by banks, railroads, and cattle barons. A charismatic and more than capable cowboy—even ranch owners who knew he was a rustler said they would hire him again—he adopted the alias “Butch Cassidy,” and moved on to a new moneymaking endeavor: bank robbery. By all accounts a smart and considerate thief, Butch and his "Wid Bunch" gang eventually graduated to more lucrative train robberies. But the railroad owners hired the Pinkerton Agency, whose detectives pursued Butch and his gang relentlessly, until he and his then partner Harry Longabaugh (The Sundance Kid) fled to South America, where they replicated the cycle of ranching, rustling, and robbery until they met their end in Bolivia.
In Butch Cassidy, Leerhsen “refuses to buy into the Hollywood hype and instead offers the true tale of Butch Cassidy, which turns out to be more fascinating and fun than the myths” (Tom Clavin, bestselling author of Tombstone). In this “entertaining…definitive account” (Kirkus Reviews), he shares his fascination with how criminals such as Butch deftly maneuvered between honest work and thievery, battling the corporate interests that were exploiting the settlers, and showing us in vibrant prose the Old West as it really was, in all its promise and heartbreak.
Charles Leerhsen is a former executive editor at Sports Illustrated. He has written for Rolling Stone, Esquire, and The New York Times. His books include Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty; Crazy Good: The Story of Dan Patch, the Most Famous Horse in America; Blood and Smoke: A True Tale of Mystery, Mayhem, and the Birth of the Indy 500; and Butch Cassidy: The True Story of an American Outlaw. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Sarah Saffian. Visit him at Leerhsen.com