Claude and Michele Stanush All Honest Men

ISBN 13: 9781579621759

All Honest Men

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9781579621759: All Honest Men

All Honest Men is based on the true-life story of J. Willis Newton, a feisty sharecropper's son who fled the Texas cotton fields to become the leader of the most successful band of outlaws in American history. It is also a window into one of the country's most pivotal eras, the early 20th Century--when the country was passing from a primarily rural society into an industrialized and urban one, and the American Dream was changing from owning a patch of land to making "big money."

If there were an Olympic competition for bank and train robbing, Willis and his three brothers--Joe, Jess and Dock--would easily have won the gold medal, carrying off more money in their day than Jesse James, the Daltons, Butch Cassidy, and all the other famous outlaws put together. They were fascinating characters who bridged the Old World outlaw era and the gangster world of Al Capone. In the early 1920s Willis' four-brother gang emptied dozens of banks and pulled off the biggest train robbery in U.S. history--a $3 million heist near Chicago.

A flinty and restless person, Willis decided he wasn't going to spend his life picking cotton and following a "stinking mule's ass." Ironically, he modeled himself after his mother, Janetta Pecos, a hefty hardworking woman who, weary of the family's slave-like existence, told him once that if she had been a man, she might have become an outlaw.

The only other person Willis respected as much as his mother was Louise Brown, who he met in Omaha, Nebraska, between robberies. Like Willis' mother, Louise was smart, wily and strong, and he fell deeply in love with her. The relationship blossomed until Louise discovered something about Willis that he'd neglected to mention--he was a bank robber. What happened after that surprised them both.

Told from Willis' perspective in a southern oral vernacular, All Honest Men was written in novel form not only to explore Willis' thinking as he became a successful bank robber, but also to provide a window into the historical context, which ranges from Texas cotton farms to the Chicago underworld, from a rural society where everything was done by hand and the workday was from dawn to dusk (from 'can see to can't), to a high-living, urban life.

Willis spent his life chasing the New American Dream--a dream that Americans are still chasing today.

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About the Author:

Claude Stanush and his daughter, Michele, are an unusual Texas writing team. On the staff of Life magazine for 13 years, Claude served as Hollywood correspondent, science writer, religion editor, chief of correspondents in Washington, D.C., and associate editor before going out on his own to write essays, short stories and film scripts. Michele wrote for newspapers in Austin and San Antonio, Texas, and was a Michigan Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan before becoming a free-lancer. Both father and daughter have won state and national awards for their writing. In 1973, Claude met and befriended Willis and Joe Newton who by then were retired bank robbers.

From Booklist:

Although most readers have probably never heard of them, the Newton gang-- J. Willis Newton and his brothers Joe, Jess, and Dock--were bank and train robbers who, during their relatively short career in the 1920s, grabbed more cash than did the Dalton gang, Jesse James, and Butch Cassidy put together. The gang was the subject of the 1999 movie The Newton Boys, for which Claude Stanush cowrote the screenplay (his cowriter here is his daughter, a journalist). This account, written as the autobiography of Willis Newton, is wonderfully entertaining whether or not you've seen the movie. The authors are intimately familiar with their material--Claude met and became quite close to Willis and Joe in the early 1970s, by which time the notorious outlaws had long been retired--and the book thrusts us into the roaring twenties and keeps us spellbound. The Stanushes have created a voice for Willis that's lively, impertinent, jocular, and honest. A rollickin' good time for true-crime fans. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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