The story of Sam Bass, both outlaw and romantic figure, has become a familiar part of Texas folklore and is well documented in nonfiction. But in this novel, Bryan Woolley creates a compelling story by giving the antihero fictional life. Woolley brings Bass alive through six alternating voices—Maude, the whore who was Bass's lover; Mary Matson, the African American who took him in and tended him as he lay dying; Dad Egan, the lawman who was once a father-figure to young Sam Bass but feels compelled to capture the outlaw; Frank Johnson, who rode with Bass but left the outlaw life to reappear as a small-town doctor; and Jim Murphy, the well-meaning saloonkeeper who makes a bargain with the law and brings down Sam Bass.
In shaping the Bass story, Woolley explores the themes of youth and age, impulse and wisdom. An outlaw, for many of us, is not a villain or a criminal but someone who, by choice or circumstance, finds himself at odds with society. We see the outlaw life as one of carefree freedom without responsibilities and full of infinite possibilities. Frank Jackson says it best as he recalls riding with Sam Bass: “I felt like an outlaw but not like a criminal, and the beauty of the day and its freedom filled me.”