Reviews for The last outlaws: the desperate final days of the Dalton Gang (Book)

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

The prolific Western historian turns in a sometimes rip-snorting, sometimes turgid account of a notorious gang of outlaws. The Dalton Gang, made up of brothers and assorted lieutenants, committed various acts of outlawry as far afield as California before heading home to concentrate on the southern Great Plains. It was in an apparent effort to outdo a kindred gang, by robbing two neighboring banks in the same raid that the boys got into serious trouble, with four dead men stretched out on a board in Coffeyville, Kansas. Clavin, who’s been writing about the Wild West for years, does a good job of portraying the attendant mayhem, with all its gore: “The bullet found the cashier’s face, entering right below the left eye and exiting at the base of his skull.” The author draws on the larger context of Wild West ruffians to tell his story, since by the time the Daltons came along and went, it was 1892, when the frontier was said to be closed. Some of that context seems like padding: The story of the James Gang is both well known and goes on longer than necessary, and the bits of breezy telescoping (“Not to worry: Deputy Marshal Madsen would have another crack at the Dalton brothers”) don’t add much, either. Still, Clavin ably stitches the yarn together, and he does well to bookend his story with the sole surviving Dalton, who, after serving time, tried to make it in Hollywood. Readers familiar with the 1973 Eagles album Desperado and other bits of pop Western lore will be pleased to find Bill Doolin and Bitter Creek Newcomb in the cast, as well as Cattle Annie, and, among the good guys, Bill Tilghman. Fans of outlaw tales won’t find much new, but they’ll likely enjoy the book all the same. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.