cover image Draw: The Greatest Gunfights of the American West

Draw: The Greatest Gunfights of the American West

James Reasoner / Author Berkley Publishing Group $15 (304p) IS

Reasoner, a novelist who specializes in the American West, now turns his skills from fiction to fact, relating 30 or so true tales of western gunslingers and their fates. From one-on-one duels to gang battles to posse pursuits, Reasoner covers the gamut of gunfights, telling the tales in compact but dramatic fashion. He relates the sad story of Warren Earp, the runt of the Earp brothers' litter, who missed the historic shootout at the O.K. Corral, and, trying to live up to his family name, challenged a man to a duel, only to be shot when he was unarmed. Reasoner tells the story of Bakersfield, Calif., a""sleepy little"" town that in 1903 was""the scene of one of the West's last great shoot-outs."" The author doesn't glorify the violence or the men who perpetrate it--one is struck by the senselessness of many of the fights, which were committed by men with hair-trigger tempers and too much booze in them. But these are satisfying tales for readers of western literature.