The Spectacularly Incompetent
Bonnie And Clyde

In a new book, Jeff Guinn chronicles the never before told true story of how Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow’s crime spree almost ended three weeks after it began.

Fults and Clyde had a different plan. Their immediate goal was conducting the long-planned Eastham Prison Farm break, and for that they’d require a lot more money than they could earn by fencing stolen cars. To successfully pull off the Eastham raid, they knew, the gang would need additional members and a lot more firepower than the cheap weapons they’d used in the Simms break-in. Fults had some specific acquaintances in mind as recruits. He knew several crooks living in and around Denton who he believed would make enthusiastic, competent partners. But there was no sense asking them to join up without enough powerful assault weapons to overwhelm the prison guards.

The gang’s current arsenal consisted of the cheap Saturday Night Special handguns that were readily available anywhere, plus a couple of shotguns. In the 1930s, almost every Texas family had a gun or two—it was considered strange to be weaponless. Small-caliber pistols and shotguns were available on street corners for a few dollars. These, however, were notoriously inaccurate even at close range. More upscale weaponry could be purchased in hardware stores. Every town of any size had one. There were no background checks involved when guns were purchased. Even Thompson submachine guns—“tommy guns”—were on sale for a few hundred dollars each. Those who didn’t have nearby stores selling guns could send away for them by enclosing a check with the mail-order forms routinely found in popular magazines. For the Eastham raid, Clyde and Fults also wanted bulletproof vests and a large supply of ammunition. So Hamilton was overruled; the gang would try to make its Eastham budget in one grand haul. Fults preferred banks to small businesses. Even though Clyde had never tried to rob a bank, after the Simms blunder he was in no position to disagree.

While Bonnie waited at home with her mother, Emma, the trio of Clyde, Fults, and Hamilton staged a series of small stickups in and around Dallas to gather some traveling money. They couldn’t stay in the area long. After the Simms break-in, the West Dallas cops were on the lookout for their old target Clyde Barrow. The decision was made to drive north and find a bank to rob somewhere far away from the local heat. Long-distance travel for business, recreation—and crime—had become much easier. The post-World War I Federal Highway Act added 300,000 miles of hard-topped interstate highways. In 1924, Rand McNally published its first national road map, making it relatively simple to plan out routes, and including many smaller state and farm roads as well as the major thoroughfares. Clyde loved the newfangled maps. Throughout his criminal career, they would be found in virtually every stolen car he abandoned along the way.


Keep me up to date on the latest happenings and all that D Magazine has to offer.