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“Among the Finest Books Published on Outlaws of the Great Basin Country”

74. KELLY, Charles. The Outlaw Trail A History of Butch Cassidy and His Wild Bunch Hole-in-the-Wall Brown’s Hole Robber’s Roost. Salt Lake City: Published by the Author, 1938. [iii]-337 [1 blank], [2] pp., 23 plates (mostly photographic), text illustrations and endpaper maps by Bill Fleming. 8vo, original maroon gilt-pictorial cloth in faux levant style. Very fine copy in pristine d.j. with dramatic illustration in orange and black. Author’s signed and dated presentation copy:  “To J. Cecil Alter—It has been said that all great minds enjoy murder stories—I hope you like this! Charles Kelly Oct. 30, 1938.”  Occasional pencil corrections in text.

     First edition (limited to 1,000 copies). Adams, One-Fifty 89: “Scarce... An excellent history of the lives and exploits of the better-known outlaws of the Northwest.” Adams, Guns 1221. Dykes, Rare Western Outlaw Books, pp. 29, 35. Howes K58: “Includes other spectacular bandits infesting the mountains of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.” Mohr, The Range Country 695: “Issued privately in a small edition and now rare.”  These days the book does not seem particularly rare, even in the d.j.

      Thrapp (Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography II, p. 767) describes Kelly’s classic book as “among the finest books published on outlaws of the Great Basin country.” Thrapp discusses Kelly’s iconoclastic, cynical nature “almost to the point of misanthropy” and recalls that Kelly’s eulogist conceded Kelly had a “barbwire personality.”  Kelly (1889-1971) compiled this work from newspapers, books, articles in periodicals, and—most importantly—interviews with old-timers.

     Butch Cassidy was one of the first to break ground on the Outlaw Trail, a meandering path running from Mexico, through Utah, and ending in Montana, linking a series of hideouts and ranches, such as the Carlisle Ranch near Monticello, where an outlaw cowboy could usually find a job.  Occasionally Kelly discusses women on the Outlaw Trail, such as distaff rustler and rancher Ann Bassett of Brown’s Peak:  “[Sam] Basset was an unassuming individual but his Amazonian wife had the reputation of being able to outride, outrope, outshoot and outcuss any cowboy in that part of Wyoming.  Her two daughters became expert in handling cattle.  Ann, who earned her title as ‘Queen of the Rustlers,’ and Josie, who was quick on the trigger, were a pair of real desert queens” (p. 70).  Josie Bassett, “the hard-riding, straight-shooting cowgirl not content to play the part of a meek housewife” (p. 73) was married five times, and Butch was said to be one of her myriad paramours.  The book ends with a chapter asking that age-old question about icons who capture the popular imagination: “Is Butch Cassidy Dead?” ($250-500)

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