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Texas Ranger: The Epic Life of Frank Hamer, the Man Who Killed Bonnie and Clyde Mass Market Paperback – May 25, 2021

4.7 out of 5 stars 885 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

JOHN BOESSENECKER is considered one of the leading authorities on crime and lawlessness in the Old West. He is the award-winning author of Bandido: The Life and Times of Tiburcio Vasquez and When Law Was in the Holster: The Frontier Life of Bob Paul. In 2011 and 2013, True West magazine named Boessenecker Best Nonfiction Writer. He has appeared frequently as a historical commentator on PBS, The History Channel, A&E, and others. He lives in San Francisco, California.

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ St. Martin's Paperbacks (May 25, 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Mass Market Paperback ‏ : ‎ 656 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1250623936
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1250623935
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 12 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 4.28 x 1.36 x 7.47 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.7 out of 5 stars 885 ratings

Customer reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5
885 global ratings
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Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on April 24, 2019
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Reviewed in the United States on August 26, 2019
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Reviewed in the United States on June 30, 2016
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Toughest Texan Ever?
By Mark Mellon on June 30, 2016
A small Texas town in the ’30’s gripped by mob fever driven by racial hatred, almost the whole populace crowded around the courthouse, most hellbent on lynching the accused African-American in the jail, the rest there to watch the “fun.” An automobile forces its way through the crowd into the public square. Several men get out, big, tough, armed with shotguns and submachine guns. One goes to the courthouse steps where he sits alone, brandishing a Tommy gun, a hard look on his face. The news whips through the mob: “That’s Frank Hamer!” And with that the mob slinks away like the cowardly beast that it is, deprived of its courage and bravado by the presence of just one man, Frank Hamer, the toughest Texas Ranger that ever lived.

This is just one of the many incredibly dramatic incidents that made up the life of Frank Hamer. John Boessenecker has written an accurate, deeply researched biography that doesn’t flinch from the unsavory, downright awful aspects of Texas history and the genuine character flaws of his subject. Like every other human being, Hamer was a product of his time and place. He grew up tough working as a cowhand and farming at a time when Texas was little removed from its frontier origins and his beliefs and views were affected by that. The author makes no bones about the fact that Hamer was a white supremacist, as indeed most Americans were quite unapologetically until recent times. Yet he also points out how Hamer differed from many of his contemporaries in his concern for the underdog. This is illustrated by the many times when Hamer fought off lynch mobs intent on murdering accused African-Americans, often at great risk to his life. Again, the author doesn’t turn away from the raw and hateful racism that was so endemic in Texas and the Deep South at that time.

Incorruptibility was another sterling quality of Hamer. In a state so famous for corruption that they joked that a spotlight was focused on the state capitol’s dome at night so the governor couldn’t steal it, Hamer simply could not be bought or influenced. This led to frequent conflicts between him and other, highly politicized and compromised Rangers and most significantly for his own career, with Ma and Pa Ferguson, cheerfully brazen grafters who first played the alternating spouses for governor trick later used by George and Lurleen Wallace in Alabama (my, there really is something about Dixie, isn’t there?).

Hamer’s most famous exploit was, of course, the manhunt he organized that successfully put an end to Bonnie and Clyde’s murderous crime spree. The Ranger would be pretty much a footnote outside of Texas today if he hadn’t had attention brought to him by Arthur Penn’s ’67 film, Bonnie And Clyde. Aware that this is the best part of his story, Boessenecker draws out this section of the narrative, explaining in detail how Hamer carefully followed the criminals, always keeping his plans secret, until he was able to trap them with the help of one of their confederates, Henry Methvin. He also debunks the romanticization of the couple in Penn’s film, pointing out how many people they viciously killed and the basically pointless, nihilist nature of their rampage.

After a life filled with so many violent incidents including multiple gunfights, Hamer died peacefully in his old age in Austin. He left behind a vastly different state from the one he’d known as a young man, a good deal more civilized in many ways. Much of that progress can be attributed to Frank Hamer. Despite not having much formal education, he brought a level of professionalism, integrity, and courage to the job that has served as a model to Texas Rangers to this very day. For that, he still deserves praise.

I recommend this book to everyone interested in modern Texas history, the Southwest in general, and anyone who wants a rip-roaring read about one of the last of the genuine rooting-tooting buckaroos, the real McCoy. Frank Hamer was all that and more.
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Reviewed in the United States on May 15, 2016
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Reviewed in the United States on January 9, 2017
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Top reviews from other countries

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book-warts and all about a Law Enforcement Legend!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 2, 2021
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book on a fascinating man
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 19, 2018
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5.0 out of 5 stars Class read.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 16, 2018
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Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 31, 2017
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4.0 out of 5 stars Frank Hamer
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 17, 2020
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