cover image American Legend: The Real-Life Adventures of David Crockett

American Legend: The Real-Life Adventures of David Crockett

Buddy Levy, . . Putnam, $24.95 (339pp) ISBN 978-0-399-15278-8

Levy presents a sympathetic but unremarkable biography of the legendary frontiersman in colloquial if occasionally florid prose (an election loss "burned into Crockett like a brand searing a cow's flank"). Those whose image of Crockett was formed by the cultishly successful Disney treatment will find much that is familiar: the Indian fighter with Andrew Jackson, the congressmen from Tennessee and, finally, the Texas patriot who died defending the Alamo. But Levy (Echoes on Rimrock: In Pursuit of the Chukar Partridge ) offers more (although not a lot more) in the way of background and complexity, and is willing to expose some of Crockett's deficiencies without making judgments: Crockett clearly indulged his wanderlust at the expense of his wife, a strong figure in her own right, and was, for a variety of reasons, an ineffective, bumbling politician. But despite his faults, readers will find Crockett likable and talented. In Levy's view, Crockett's abilities were expansive, and he opines that Crockett's bestselling 1834 autobiography "prefigures by some fifty years the literary genre of 'realism,' with nothing remotely like it" until Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn . And Crockett's falling out with President Jackson over, in part, Jackson's brutal Indian Removal Act of 1830 is to the frontiersman's credit. B&w illus. (Jan.)