By Gerald Kolpan
(Ballantine Books, Hardcover, 9780345503688, 336pp.)
Publication Date: March 24, 2009
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Beautiful, elusive, and refined, Etta Place captivated the nation at the turn of the last century as she dodged the law with the Wild Bunch, led by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Her true identity and fate have remained a mystery that has tantalized historians for decades. Now, for the first time, Gerald Kolpan envisions this remarkable woman’s life in a stunning debut novel.
Kolpan imagines that Etta Place was born Lorinda Jameson, the daughter of a prominent financier, who becomes known as the loveliest of the city’s debutantes when she makes her entrance into Philadelphia society. Though her position in life is already assured, her true calling is on horseback. She can ride as well as any man and handle a rifle even better. But when a tragedy leads to a dramatic reversal of fortune, Lorinda is left orphaned, penniless, homeless, and pursued by the ruthless Black Hand mafia.
Rechristened “Etta Place” to ensure her safety, the young woman travels to the farthest reaches of civilization, working as a “Harvey Girl” waitress in Grand Junction, Colorado. There, fate intervenes once more and she again finds herself on the run from the ruthless Pinkerton Detective Agency. But this time she has company. She soon finds herself at the legendary hideout at Hole-in-the-Wall, Wyoming, where she meets the charismatic Butch Cassidy and the handsome, troubled Harry Longbaugh, a.k.a. the Sundance Kid. Through a series of holdups and heists, Etta and Harry begin an epic and ultimately tragic romance, which will be the greatest of Etta’s life. Then, when Etta meets the young and idealistic Eleanor Roosevelt, her life is changed forever.
Blending a compelling love story, high adventure, and thrilling historical drama, Etta is an electrifying novel. With a sweeping 1900s setting, colorful storytelling, and larger-than-life characters, Etta is debut that is both captivating and unforgettable.
Gerald Kolpan is an Emmy Award-winning television reporter in Philadelphia. Prior to his television career he wrote for newspapers and magazines nationwide and was a frequent contributor to NPR’s All Things Considered. Etta is his first book.
“In this exhilarating and provocative story of the life of the mysterious figure known as Etta Place, Gerard Kolpan creates a richly conceived, passionately rendered, and wonderfully imagined novel that leaps off the page with its daring. When Etta walks into your life, you won’t be able to put the book down, so prop up the pillows and get ready to ride the night through—because you're going to fall in love with this one.”—Jonis Agee, author of The River Wife
“Kolpan has a gift for capturing the voice of America at the turn of the last century, and he uses it to full advantage, entwining newspaper reports, historical documents, journals, and his own lush prose. Etta’s story unfolds in surprising ways against the backdrop of one of the most colorful periods in our nation’s history. This is a writer to watch.”—Karen Abbott, author of Sin in the Second City
“The sketchy details of the life of Etta Place, outlaw and paramour of Harry ‘Sundance Kid’ Longbaugh, are imaginatively filled in by first-time novelist Kolpan in this winning tale of the Wild West. . . . Kolpan’s snappy storytelling makes it impossible not to want to ride along.”—Publishers Weekly
“Incorporating Etta’s diary entries, telegraph messages, and news clippings into the narrative, Kolpan vividly tells a tale that is both outrageous and entertaining, sure to be compared favorably with Larry McMurtry’s novels of the Wild West.”—Library Journal
“Emmy Award-winning TV journalist Kolpan extends his resume impressively with this picaresque debut novel . . . Few will have any more success resisting Etta than do the many men, women and other critters encountered during her memorable adventures. Great fun and—beneath the hijinks—a surprisingly substantial novel.”—Kirkus, starred
“Imaginative . . . Loaded with captivating historical detail . . . A convincing anti-heroine [readers] can root for to the end.”—USA Today
“Etta has everything you’d want in a story of the last days of the old West—fast horses, chivalrous train robbers, dastardly villains, and a beautiful damsel constantly in distress, but usually able to get out of it on her own. It’s rollicking, rambunctious, rip-roaring, rootin’-tootin’ . . . It makes you want to hop on a fast horse and join the gang.”—Chicago Sun-Times
“Packed with adventure . . . As brilliant as a summer’s sunset, Etta takes you on an action-packed, ‘celebrity-studded,’ trail-blazing ride. . . Saddle up!”—Times Record News (Wichita Falls, Texas)
“Rather than be ribald and Deadwood-esque, as most modern Westerns appear, Kolpan's chatty character-run horse opera is stately, bloody and romantic — the lit-equivalent of Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller . . .” —Philadelphia City Paper
“Rollicking . . . filled with colorful characters . . . Kolpan is also good at taking the reader back to the sights, sounds and smells of the early 20th century . . . A bully adventure!” —BookPage
“A richly imagined tale . . . A fast-paced adventure story, replete with gunfights and train robberies and the romance of the Cowboy West.”—Denver Post
“In this lively and well-researched novel, reporter Kolpan explores the mysterious life of 1900s figure Etta Place, fleshing out her romance with legendary Old West robber the Sundance Kid.”—OK!
“Kolpan deserves credit for his creativity . . . Rich and rewarding . . The well-crafted narrative successfully brings to life an era and a figure lost to time.”—Philadelphia Inquirer
“In this warm, deftly plotted novel, Gerald Kolpan gives the beautiful young woman an adventurous life . . . a charming story as filled with train robberies and prison escapes as any dime novel of the time—but written a whole lot better. Gerald Kolpan has painted such a vivid picture of the era—and the women living it—that it’s difficult to imagine that Etta has lived any other life.”—Historical Novels Review