The Great American Outlaw: A Legacy of Fact and Fiction

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University of Oklahoma Press, Sep 1, 1996 - Social Science - 412 pages
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This book explores in depth the origins, development, and prospects of outlawry and of the relationship of outlaws to the social conditions of changing times.

Throughout American history you will find larger-than-life brigands in every period and every region. Often, because we hunger for simple justice, we romanticize them to the point of being unable to separate fact from fiction. Frank Richard Prassel brings this home in a thorough and fascinating examination of the concept of outlawry from Robin Hood, Dick Turpin, and Blackbeard through Jean Lafitte, Pancho Villa, and Billy the Kid to more modern personalities such as John Dillinger, Claude Dallas, and D. B. Cooper. A separate chapter on molls, plus equal  treatment in the histories of gangs, traces women's involvement in outlaw activities.

Prassel covers the folklore as well as the facts, even including an appendix of ballads by and about outlaws. He makes clear how this motley group of bandits, pirates, highwaymen, desperadoes, rebels, hoodlums, renegades, gangsters, and fugitives—who stand tall in myth—wither in the light of truth, but flourish in the movies. As he tells the stories, there is little to confirm that Jesse and Frank James, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the Daltons, Pretty Boy Floyd, Ma Barker, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, Belle Starr, the Apache Kid, or any of the so-called good badmen, did anything that did not enrich or otherwise benefit themselves. But there is plenty of evidence, in the form of slain victims and ruined lives, to show how many ways they caused harm.

The Great American Outlaw is as much an excellent survey on the phenomenon as it is a brilliant exposition of the larger than-life figures who created it. Above all, it is a tribute to that aspect of humanity that Americans admire most and that Prassel describes as a willingness "to fight, however hopelessly, against exhibitions of privilege."

  

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Contents

The Bandit
3
Robin Hood Page
12
The Pirate
21
Blackbeard
33
The Highwayman
39
Dick Turpin on Black Bess
48
The Desperado
55
The Rebel 75
59
The Renegade
194
Geronimo
205
The Moll
216
Anne Bonny
221
El Patrio
234
Pancho Villa
247
The Mobster
258
John Dillinger
279

Moses Doan fighting Pennsylvania militiamen
61
Jean Lafitte with Governor Claiborne and General
70
John Murrell disposing of a body
77
The Bugheway
97
Dimenovel portrayal of Jesse James
113
The Hoodlum
116
Bob Ford shooting Jesse James
133
The Gunman
139
Bogus wanted poster for Sam Bass
141
Dimenovel portrayal of Billy the Kid
154
The Gangster
167
Henry Starr
189
The Badman
286
Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker alive
298
The Fugitive 394
304
Members of the Wild Bunch 1900
309
FBI wanted poster for William and Emily Harris
321
Epilogue
324
Claude Dallas
330
The Ballads
336
Notes
345
Bibliography
375
Index
401
Copyright

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About the author (1996)

Frank Richard Prassel is a graduate of Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. He earned two law degrees and the Ph.D. from the University of Texas and for four years directed a law-enforcement program at San Antonio College. He joined the faculty of Sacramento State College in 1970 as a professor of police science, and during 1971-72 he was senior Fulbright Lecturer in law and political science to the Republic of China.

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