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"That cigar bit [that] folks like to tell about is phony," said W.D. Jones, whose photograph of Bonnie was seized in a police raid. (Bettmann / Corbis)

The Irresistible Bonnie Parker

A pistol-wielding, cigar-chomping bank robber hams it up shortly before she and Clyde Barrow met their violent end

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(Continued from page 1)

But the couple's final 13 months belied their new image. They spent the time in the company of a shifting cast of thugs. (They eventually parted ways with W.D., who that November went to prison for killing a sheriff's deputy.) They robbed small-town banks and mom-and-pop stores, or tried to. They sometimes broke into gum ball machines for meal money. Their celebrity had made them the target of lawmen across the Mid- and Southwest.

In February 1934, authorities in the Lone Star State hired former Texas Ranger Frank Hamer to track them down, and with information from a Barrow Gang member's family, he did just that. Clyde and Bonnie were alone together on May 23, 1934, 75 years ago next month, when they drove a stolen Ford sedan into a spectacularly fatal police fusillade outside Gibsland, Louisiana. He was 24, she 23.

The allure of their image outlived them. A crowd of 10,000 overran the funeral home where Clyde's body was laid out; twice as many, in the estimate of Bonnie's mother, filed past her casket. Afterward, an entrepreneur bought the bullet-riddled Ford and toured it for years, into the early '40s. People lined up to see it.

Jeff Guinn, a former investigative reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, has written 14 fiction and nonfiction books.

Adapted from Go Down Together, by Jeff Guinn. Copyright © 2009 by Jeff Guinn. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster Inc., New York.

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