For the first few pages of Paul Schneider’s Bonnie and Clyde, The Lives Behind The Legend, we see tall, willowy, sultry Faye Dunaway as the infamous gangster moll, Bonnie Parker, and we picture tall, broad-shouldered Warren Beatty as her outlaw boyfriend, Clyde Barrow. It doesn’t take long for the author to get the real people back in focus: Bonnie is petite (under five feet tall), more adorable than sultry, and Clyde also is short but a head taller than his energetic pip-squeak girlfriend.

How did these two kids from the early 20th century American heartland turn out to be depraved bandits, bankrobbers and lackadaisical murderers, on the lam from Texas to Missouri to Oklahoma and back again? Their backgrounds were deprived but not horrifically so. In 1909 Clyde Barrow was born in a three-room home in Telico, Tex., to a tenant farmer and his wife. Baby Clyde made eight mouths to feed off the farm. Life is tough but the family stays reasonably close. In 1922 they pull up stakes and move to Dallas. As Mr. Schneider writes, “It’s the Big D, the city at the three forks of the Trinity River, where Mrs. Emma Parker, a single working mother of three, has also made her way from the hinterlands and is struggling to make ends meet and bring her children up right.”

Maybe it starts with big brother Buck’s passion for cock-fighting (and thereby stealing roosters from neighboring farms), but Clyde is exposed to petty crime far more continuously than he is to what were once called the three R’s: reading, ’riting and ’rithmitic. His first minor heists and robberies land him in jail. Out of jail, his capacity for self-rehabilitation is sorely limited by the continuous harassment of law enforcement now that they have him on their books, by his bare skill sets for anything besides thieving and, just possibly — as the author’s opinion permeates the subtext — by an intelligence as limited as his sociopathy is large.

But Clyde Barrow is charming and he is also, as Lord Byron once said of himself, “mad, bad and dangerous to know.” Bonnie falls for him with all due diligence, but their times together are limited by a long stretch Clyde pulls at the monumentally brutal penitentiary in Huntsville, Tex. Finally Clyde’s mother finagles a parole for him, and although he’s able to spend some time with Bonnie, he’s also stealing bigger and better cars in order to raise bigger and better dust storms beneath his wheels as he beats it from another robbery, maybe one of them with a half-bungled, half-outraged killing thrown in.

Finally Bonnie joins Clyde on the lam. The erstwhile members of his own Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight come and go, but he and Bonnie stay together. Because they’re in love. Plus the Great Depression is in full swing, it’s hard to get decent jobs, and once you’ve violated the Thou Shalt Not Kill memo, you accept you’ll be dying sooner rather than later and you prepare yourselves for all the thrills you can pack into your shockingly brief lives. (Bonnie and Clyde were ambushed by Texas Rangers near Gibsland, La., in 1934. This year marks the 75th anniversary of their violent end, the fusillade of bullets into their bodies filmed in slow motion in the 1967 movie.)

Mr. Schneider, who lives in West Tisbury with his wife and son, has written three previous books: Brutal Journey, about an east to west American trek of Spanish conquistadors in the late 1500s; The Enduring Shore, all about our own (and the Cape and Nantucket’s) neck of the woods; and The Adirondacks, a New York Times Book Review Notable Book.

Bonnie and Clyde represents the sixth biography of the gun-totin’ lovers. Clearly we can’t get enough of our real life outlaw stories, especially when they combine small militia-grade arsenals with cool road trips. Mr. Schneider culls reams of actual dialogue collected from friends and family of the outlaws, and inserts them into the action to provide a strong texture of fictional (and yet entirely factual) narrative. The author varies the vernacular voice of the book with the second person singular for Clyde scenes and the third person feminine for Bonnie’s point of view.

There is no detail left unpoked and uninvestigated in this book, and after a while the reader has a not-altogether unpleasing sense of being kidnapped by the Barrow Gang and taken along for their bumpy, mud-spattered, bullets-zipping-overhead ride. No need to suggest you fasten your seatbelts; they hadn’t yet been invented.