By CONNIE DAUGHERTY
Jeff Jones’s award-winning debut novel, Love Give Us One Death, is not just another Bonnie and Clyde story. It is much more. Love Give Us One Death plunges into the depths of the pain, poverty, and desperation of the 1930s—a collage of the US during one of its most confusing periods.
Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker exemplify the country, and Jones details it all with amazing descriptions.
His literary style is at once disconcerting, intriguing, and precisely what is needed to pull the reader into his story. Using third-person and occasional first-person narrative, he combines prose and poetry, fiction and fact, along with testimonies from contemporary commentators. The breathless, seemingly fragmented, writing reflects Bonnie and Clyde’s personalities better than any traditional prose could.
The author’s presentation of an old familiar story takes the two young outlaws off the pages of history and legend and inserts them into the hearts and minds of readers.
“When a skulking shadow emerged…it wandered the city like a detached spirit, weaving between crowds and passing stores and cafes…An icy mantle enveloped its brain. Cold crept its fingers up his legs, his back, his shoulders. There was purity, an icy clarity, in its touch, and he released himself into its grip. That shadow lurking inside Clyde Barrow drove him, as did Bonnie Parker, whose “mind held an immense storehouse of trivial memories, and she could palaver with a stiff as easily as a high tone lawyer.”
Clyde was naturally drawn to Bonnie. “Her presence worked on him…it thawed his blood…flowed it upward where it cracked the icy mantle over his brain.”
Something drew these two together—the times, the place, their own needs, love—and bound them in an adventure they both knew would not end well.
Love Give Us One Death follows Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow through the last months of their ride, presented through the perspectives of both main characters, their families, cohorts, and supporters, as well as officer Frank Hamer, who determined to catch them any way he could. These perspectives, juxtaposed on the page with bits of poetry, make history come alive in a realistic way. The book is not an easy read, but is definitely a worthwhile read.
Jones is a MacDowell Fellow. His writing has won numerous awards—Pushcart, George Garrett Fiction, Meridian Editors’, A. David Schwartz, and Wabash, as well as an Idaho Authors Award for top five fiction books. He currently lives and writes in Northern Idaho. Love Give Us One Death is his first book, and his next book, Bloodshot Stories, will be released by Sunshot Press in 2018.