I had been meaning to read the work of Larry McMurtry, author of Lonesome Dove, Evening Star, Last Picture Show, and others. Prolific. Talented. For some reason, I began with a collaboration: Pretty Boy Floyd.
Two things struck me immediately as I read the book. First, that the authors (McMurtry collaborated with Dianna Ossana) were skillful in giving us a feel of the Depression Era as well as keeping the pacing of the book lively. Second, that they painted an astonishingly sympathetic portrait of Charlie Floyd.
Reading this made me pause. By giving us a likable character and not addressing the crimes committed, not really exploring the morality, were the authors somehow doing a disservice, or was my impression of the book colored by my own judgment regarding crime. Or perhaps the writers were only telling a story, all moral issues aside.
Reading this book made me immediately consider the likes of Tupac Shakur or Snoop Dog. Both men likable. Both men confessed criminals (Snoop was a member of the Crips and sold cocaine and also was at one point accused of murder; Tupac was accused of sexual abuse, assault, and attempted murder, among other things). And both men, like Floyd, somehow used their criminal past to help parley their talents (real or imagined) into celebrity status.
Given my own perspective of a life of crime, I read the book with a critical eye. I kept asking these questions, which for me weren't answered satisfactorily: Why has Floyd become a criminal? He is cheating on his wife and his girlfriend, with numerous other women---why has the author made it seem almost laudable that he at least provides some financial support for them from the gleanings of his criminal life? What is there about a criminal life that sparks a perverse celebrity, a celebrity where people are more likely to identify with Charlie or Snoop Dog than they are with law enforcement and law abiding individuals? What does this say about our society? What does this say about the authors?
Some would lean over at this point and say: "Just read the book, dammit." Okay. But the questions are still there, and those questions and comparisons mar the book for me. Just a personal observation.