Wednesday, January 31, 2007


A Novel of Wild Bill Hickok
by Max McCoy
Signet Historical Novel
244 pages

As in all things in life, most of have favorites; a favorite writer, a favorite TV show, a favorite food, etc.etc. Likewise, of all the larger than life historical figures of the Wild West era, mine has always been Wild Bill Hickok. Born James Butler Hickok, in Troy Grove, Illinois in 1837, he grew up to become a Yankee scout during the Civil War. After the war he drifted west as a scout, gambler, stage coach driver and eventually lawman. An educated, sophisticated dandy, with his long, curly brown hair and thick mustache, he was said to cut an extremely dashing figure that caused women to swoon. A friend of Buffalo Bill Cody, he spent an entire season in New York City, on the stage in a Wild West dramatization that was not to his liking and weary, returned to Deadwood, where he was eventually murdered by one Jack McCall.

There have been countless books, both historical and fictional written about him as well as many, many movie and television versions of his marksmanship exploits on the frontier. Now, within weeks of each other, two new books have arrived and I was most eager to get my hands on them.

A BREED APART focuses primarily on Hickok’s younger days leading up to the time where he begins to earn his reputation as a gunfighter. A great deal is spent on his encounter with way-station bully Dave McCanles who crossed paths with the young Hickock and became his first victim. Then the book takes Wild Bill into the war years where he was free-riding spy for the Union Armies along the Missouri, Arkansas border and ends with his famous shoot-out with his old friend, Davis Tutt on the streets of Springfield.

This is a fast moving story that is easily told with fascinating characters. McCoy is a veteran western writer and his shows both in his settings and dialogue. The people are so believable, it is easy to imagine this is truly how it was in a much unsettled and untamed country. This is a terrific book and I hope McCoy comes back to tell more stories about the legendary Wild Bill. There’s lots more to tell.


Glen Davis said...

I'm more of a John Wesley Hardin guy myself, but I've read a whole lot of stuff about Hickock.

Ron Fortier said...

And didn't they actually meet at one time. Am not too clear on the specifics, but if memory serves me right both chose not test the other and Hardin packed his gear and left town.

Glen Davis said...

IIRC, They were friends for a while.

Hickock tried to take Hardin's guns, and Hardin, after acting like he would surrender, did a boreder roll (like in The Outlaw Jesse Wales) This so impressed Hickock that they palled around for a while.

Then Hardin shot a guy for snoring too loud and had to leave town fast.