Wild Bill Hickok: The Man and His Myth

Joseph G. Rosa, Author
Joseph G. Rosa, Author University Press of Kansas $29.95 (280p) ISBN 978-0-7006-0773-0
Reviewed on: 04/01/1996
Release date: 04/01/1996
Paperback - 276 pages - 978-0-7006-1523-0
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Rosa (They Called Him Wild Bill) has spent the past 40 years researching the life of the frontier lawman. One reuslt is this engaging study of the Hickok legends, which Rosa says, by their very nature, are suspect. Using a combination of colorful anecdote and meticulous research, Rosa describes what it was about Hickok that made him a boyhood hero and the more complex facts about the man who was alternately admired and vilified. James Butler Hickok was 38 when he was killed in Deadwood, S.D., in 1876. He had been a Civil War spy, scout, Indian fighter, gambler, gunfighter and peace officer. He is said to have killed more than 100 men, but Rosa estimates the actual number to be about 10. The gunfight on the street of a frontier town is a staple of Old West fiction, and that ritual, Rosa says, originated with Hickok in 1865 when he killed fellow gambler Davis K. Tutt in Springfield, Missouri's public square. ""The fight was... significant as the first type of the classic Western gunfight and would inspire more fiction than any other facet of the frontier experience."" Smartly, Rosa includes the lengthy 1867 Harper's magazine article that was largely responsible for Hickok's notoriety. It was the kind of exaggerated press account that made the often self-effacing real man so uncomfortable. Illustrations not seen by PW. (May)
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