Etta Place: A Biography by D. J. Herda
Riding into History with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
THE MYSTERY began at the very beginning. Who was she? As a young woman, she took the name, "Place," from the maiden name of lover Harry Longabaugh's mother. Over the years, she combined the last name with several other monikers and slipped on a wedding ring to become widely known as "Mrs. Ethel Place." The Pinkertons identified her alternately as "Ethel," "Ethal," "Eva," and "Rita" before finally settling on "Etta" for their wanted posters. Harry Longabaugh, the Sundance Kid, knew her simply as his wife.
The two met in late 1899 or early 1900, and, it was either love or lust at first sight. He was tall for his day with dark hair and chiseled features, deep-set, penetrating eyes, and a full mustache. She was glamor-queen gorgeous, the perfect woman--witty, playful, refined, gregarious. They saw one another for the better part of a year before they decided to get married. After Sundance introduced Etta to Robert Parker (Butch Cassidy), the three joined the rest of the Wild Bunch gang that appeared first in Utah in 1897 and set off on a spree of bank, stagecoach, and train robberies. While Butch was the consummate "good guy," quick to smile and pleasant beyond the norm, Sundance was just as quick with his gun and willing to use it anywhere, anytime. He was the quintessential bad boy with whom the archetypical good gal fell in love. While the men went about their calculated business, Etta remained nearby, always aware, keeping a careful watch.
* * *
Here, at last, is the most complete and accurate biographical history of Ethel Bishop, Ann Bassett, Eunice Gray, Madaline Wilson, and half a dozen other women all rolled into one. Here is the story of the real Etta Place.
* * *
D. J. Herda, June 23, 2021 - This date marks a starting point in my life. It's the day my biography of the Wild Bunch's most alluring gang member hit the streets. While the book isn't exactly my first rodeo, Etta was for me a first in many ways. A true enigma in life, she, along with her two compadres, grew to be one of my most endearing acquaintances. I'm fortunate to have gotten to know her not only up close and personal through the enlightenment of exacting research but also somewhat revealingly.
Yes, it's true. Etta told me a secret. Oh, not face-to-face, of course. She's been gone for far too many years for that. But, rather, through a series of clues she left behind as to what really happened to her after Butch and Sundance were gunned down by Bolivian police in South America.
And she told me something else through that same series of clues: What really happened to Butch and Sundance. And who the Bolivian police really killed in that hacienda that fateful day. And who they really buried in those unmarked graves in the local cemetery.
More than that, she told me what really happened to her cohorts in crime. She did, and Butch's relatives did. And some of Sundance's closest acquaintances did.
And, I venture to say, you won't believe it.
I know I didn't. Not at first. I tried hard to disprove my mounting suspicions. But, in the end, like the enigmatic and mysterious finale to Ms. Place, herself, I had to admit the legend was wrong.
Ahh, but there's yet another reason I'm so proud of this particular book's release. It's my nintieth book to reach publication. Nintieth. That averages out to nearly two books a year for all the years I've been writing. With no ghostwriters (couldn't trust 'em), no slopped-together books for the sake of a quick buck (couldn't stand 'em), and no shortcuts (couldn't abide by them). Needless to say, I spend a lot of time behind my desk.
So, I hope you pick up and read a copy. Etta Place - Riding into History with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It's already garnering rave reviews. If you'd like a review copy to see for yourself, just let me know where you plan on posting your unbiased review, and I'll pass the information on to the publisher.
Until then, I hope you enjoy the read as much as I did researching and writing the story. Etta Place was one of the earliest truly liberated women, a woman for the ages, and one of the Wild West's most enduring riddles. I'm grateful I got to know her and even more grateful to be able to bring her story--her true and complete story--to life.