Two-Buck Chuck and the Marlboro Man: The New Old West

Frank Bergon. Univ. of Nevada, $24.95 (264p) ISBN 978-1-948908-06-1
Novelist Bergon (Jesse’s Ghost) uses his personal experience of growing up in California’s San Joaquin Valley to frame this insightful, if overly discursive, take on the American West. Bergon breathes life into what could have been an academic argument—that the West has always emphasized communal values and is often misrepresented as solely valuing individualism—by devoting each chapter to a specific figure indicated by its title, such as “Black Ranch Girl,” “Illegal Immigrant to Valley Farmer,” or “Chicano Vet.” He profiles his subjects both through his own friendships with many of them—including lifelong working cowboy Darrell Winfield, whom he’d known since before Winfield was hired as the Marlboro Man in the late 1960s—and through in-depth interviews. For example, Nancy Turner Gray, the “black ranch girl,” reports on strands of both tolerance and prejudice in the Valley’s multiracial culture during her ’60s upbringing. In the best instances, Bergon’s memories and interviews ground larger historical events, as in “A Valley Indian’s Search for Roots,” which explores the California Gold Rush through a Native American woman’s research into her family history. At times, though, the individual details distract from Bergon’s larger objectives, rendering this a book more effective as a collection of sketches than as a unified whole. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 11/12/2018
Release date: 03/01/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 264 pages - 978-1-948908-54-2
Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-948908-05-4
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