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Kirkus ReviewsA collection of strange and intriguing tales about famous characters of American Western history. The author's research has come upon many mysteries that resist ultimate solution.
Prolific writer of the Old West, Walker (a columnist for the Rocky Mountain News) examines the life and death of Davy Crockett, Meriwether Lewis and his Indian guide Sacajawea, Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Boston Corbett, the soldier who killed John Wilkes Booth, Ambrose Bierce, Custer, Crazy Horse and the Mormon leaders who instigated the mass murder of a wagon train of "gentile" men, women and children passing through "Mormon land" on their way to California. Walker, trying to fill gaps in the historical records by exposition of logical reasoning, finds conflicting testimonies, many rumors, bizarre tales and conspiracy theories, and also credible accounts of the deaths of these larger-than-life characters. Despite several Mexican eyewitness accounts of Crockett's death at the Alamo, Walker concludes that he died as he lived—heroically. The mysterious "suicide" of Meriwether Lewis opens several questions—did he know too much about the treacherous General Wilkinson and the unconvicted Aaron Burr? The song and story of Jesse James as a folk hero Robin Hood is demolished by Walker as he argues that James was a murderer-robber who stole from both the rich and the poor and kept the proceeds. He stresses the detective-story aspects behind official history. Legends and myths grow around famous figures, some true, some exaggerated, some lies that add to mysteries, but he argues that legends tend to live on, whether true or false and that myths and fictions often overcome facts.
The stories are absorbing and Walker's commentaries are instructive. They should entertain readers of American Western history and mystery fans.