Gentleman Bandit


The True Story of Black Bart, the Old West’s Most Infamous Stagecoach Robber

by John Boessenecker

“Pure literary gold: Boessenecker delivers the most in-depth and thought-provoking biography of the iconic and over-fictionalized Western character ever published. He has now set the standard on Black Bart research, which may never be equaled again.”


“[A] candid biography of a nineteenth-century desperado who flustered law enforcement and mystified the public with his politeness. The Wild West comes to life in vivid detail as Boessenecker describes each theft Boles committed, making for a fascinating account of an enigmatic criminal.”


“An entertaining, well-researched foray into the life of a well-known but legend-layered outlaw.”


Black Bart is widely regarded today as not only the most notorious stage robber of the Old West, but also the best-behaved. Over his lifetime, Black Bart robbed at least twenty-nine stagecoaches on the Northern California coast with mild, polite commands, each time brandishing a sawed-off shotgun that is widely believed to never have been loaded. Such behavior earned him the title of a true “gentleman bandit.”

His real name was Charles E. Boles, and in the public eye, Charles lived quietly as a boulevardier in San Francisco, the wealthiest and most exciting city in the American West. Boles was educated man, travelling among respectable crowds. Because he did not drink, fight, or consort with prostitutes, his true calling as America’s greatest stage robber was never suspected. Sheriffs searched and struggled for years to find him, and newspaper editors had a field day reporting his exploits. Legends and rumors trailed his name until his mysterious death, and his ultimate fate remains one of the greatest mysteries of the Old West.

Now, in the first biography in decades and with untold material about Black Bart, in GENTLEMAN BANDIT (Hanover Square Press Hardcover; March 14, 2023) historian John Boessenecker sheds new light on Black Bart’s life, reputation, and exploits, bringing to life the glittering story of the mysterious stage robber who doubled as a rich, genteel socialite in the golden era of the Wild West.

John Boessenecker is the author of ten books, including the New York Times bestseller Texas Ranger: The Epic Life of Frank Hamer, the Man Who Killed Bonnie and Clyde. He has received the Spur award from Western Writers of America, the Best Book award from Westerners International, and in 2011 and 2013 True West named him Best Nonfiction Writer. He has appeared frequently as a historical commentator on PBS, The History Channel, A&E, and other media. He lives near San Francisco, California.

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