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Publishers WeeklyMuch more than an account of the life of famed Mexican outlaw Joaquín Murrieta, Wilson (The Salem Witch Trials: How History Is Invented) delves into a variety of historical sources to paint a vivid picture of life in California during the Gold Rush of the 1850s. Wilson provides a wealth of context in which to examine the complicated legend of Murrieta, who "became the historical symbol of Mexican banditry as rebellion against unjust laws and actions" committed by Americans in California. As legend has it, Murrieta was a "a light-skinned romantic Robin Hood or Zorro type," who rebelled against "southerners in the United States who coveted more land and felt manifestly destined to take it." Wilson includes profiles of John Rollin Ridge, the first writer to chronicle Murrieta in the quasi-fictional The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murrieta; and journalists Manuel Clemente Rojo and Francisco P. Ramirez who wrote extensively on the Murrieta band and tackled the political landscape of the time. The second half of the book explores the dangers of vigilantism and the fates of many other notorious Mexican criminals of the time like Juan Flores, Pancho Daniel, and Tiburcio Vásquez. Thorough and engrossing, this book will likely spark the interest of scholars and rabble-rousers alike.
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