Book Review: The Outlaw Trail: A History of Butch Cassidy & His Wild Bunch ( by Charles Kelly) : WW

8/12/2001 • Butch Cassidy, Outlaws, Wild West Reviews

The Outlaw Trail: A History of Butch Cassidy & His Wild Bunch, by Charles Kelly, niversity ofNebraska Press, Lincoln, Neb., 1996, $14 paperback.

This is the Bison Book edition of Charles Kelly’s most famous work, which he originally self-published in 1938 with a slightly longer title: Outlaw Trail, A History of Butch Cassidy and His Wild Bunch, Hole-in-the-Wall, Brown’s Hole, Robber’s Roost. A revised commercial edition called The Outlaw Trail: The Story of Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch came out in 1959. Anyone interested in the famous collection of outlaws now best known as the Wild Bunch, as well as in the remote places where the bunch hid out, will want to ride or re-ride the Outlaw Trail with Kelly. “No historian interviewed more old-timers with firsthand knowledge or collected more anecdotes, tall and short, than Kelly,” write Daniel Buck and Anne Meadows in the introduction (see Meadows and Buck’s story on the last days of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in the February 1997 Wild West). Not that all his sources were always reliable, as Kelly himself pointed out, but most any outlaw historian will readily commend Kelly for his contributions to understanding the outlaws of the Great Basin country. Kelly found these outlaws to be rather sympathetic. Were they as bad as the railroad, cattle and mining kings who never let laws stand in their way while they were carving out their fortunes in the West? As Buck and Meadows suggest, “No doubt Kelly would gladly have hunkered by the fire with them [Butch and the boys].” Readers who hunker by the fire with this classic will be glad they did.