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Rare books collector claims to have Butch Cassidy's manuscript

August 15, 2011 |  5:12 pm

Butchcassidy_gang
Historians generally believe that famed bank robber Butch Cassidy died in a gunfight in Bolivia in 1908. But a rare book collector in Utah claims that Cassidy survived -- and lived to write down the tale.

The collector, Brent Ashworth, is in possession of "Bandit Invincible: The Story of Butch Cassidy." The manuscript shares its title with a work of fiction, also unpublished, but Ashworh and a colleague believe it is veiled autobiography, the Associated Press reports.

The manuscript, “Bandit Invincible: The Story of Butch Cassidy,” dates to 1934. At 200 pages, it’s twice as long as a previously known but unpublished novella of the same title by William T. Phillips, a machinist who died in Spokane in 1937.

Utah book collector Brent Ashworth and Montana author Larry Pointer say the text contains the best evidence yet — with details only Cassidy could have known — that “Bandit Invincible” was not biography but autobiography, and that Phillips himself was the legendary outlaw.

Others aren’t convinced.

“Total horse pucky,” said Cassidy historian Dan Buck. “It doesn’t bear a great deal of relationship to Butch Cassidy’s real life, or Butch Cassidy’s life as we know it.”

Most of the manuscript’s accounts bear little resemblance to known Wild Bunch exploits. Pointer insists that Cassidy, as Phillips, was writing fiction. Phillips did offer the story to Sunset magazine without drawing interest.

Cassidy and his Wald Bunch gang were notorious turn-of-the-century outlaws who captured the public's imagination with their toughness, Robin Hood sensibility and bravado. In the photograph above, Cassidy is seated at the right; the Sundance Kid is also seated, at left. The gang sent the picture to a Nevada bank with a thank-you note after successfully robbing it.

The 1969 film "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," which starred Paul Newman as Butch Cassidy and Robert Redford as the Sundance Kid, portrayed what was understood to be their end in that Bolivian firefight. Except the movie never showed them getting killed -- perhaps, as Ashwoth and Pointer believe, they actually got away.

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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Butch Cassidy, bottom right, with his gang in a circa 1900 photograph. Credit: Nevada Historical Society / Associated Press Photos


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