Buffalo Bill's America, by Louis S. Warren, is well written and exhaustively researched, the weightiest and surely the most ambitious book ever published about Cody and his times. No one interested in Buffalo Bill, 19th-century show business or the many meanings of the American West will want to pass it up. But it is also likely to spark almost as many arguments as it seeks to settle.
The New York Times
In this ambitious biography, Warren depicts William "Buffalo Bill" Cody as a man who took a set of extraordinary skills, added a few fanciful tales and built a persona that made him one of the most recognizable men of his time. But it's in Cody's Wild West Show that UC-Davis historian Warren finds Cody's true genius: the ability to capture in theater the anxieties, cultural myths, ambitions, class divides and cultural direction of America as it approached the 20th century. Warren seeks metaphor and symbolism everywhere and is remarkably inventive in finding them. Readers who tire of the discussions of the domestication of America as captured in the Wild West Show, or theories that the show symbolized American labor unrest (with the Indians as stand-ins for labor), will find Warren's analysis of Cody's influence on Bram Stoker's Dracula or what Edvard Munch had in common with Cody's Wild West Show entertaining, if not totally convincing. Warren sends out a fusillade of theories about late-19th-century American culture, the American west and their intersection with the Wild West Show; some resonate, some are provocative and some simply (and unintentionally) amuse. All in all, Warren manages to both entertain and instruct. 41 b&w illus. (Oct. 14) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Was William "Buffalo Bill" Cody (1846-1917) a genuine man of the West or just a tremendously successful showman? To answer that question, Warren (history, Univ. of California, Davis; The Hunter's Game) does not simply write a biography but analyzes the cultures of the eastern United States and Europe and their relationship with that of America's West. Using Cody's 1879 autobiography as a point of reference, he addresses the complex issue of mythmakers' self-awareness, speculating on Cody's motives for often manipulating the truth. He defines Cody as a showman of the first order but also establishes that he did fight in the Civil War, did kill numerous buffalo, and did scout for the army. In keeping with recent Western historiography, Warren considers the significance of the railroads in the development of the West. He also examines Cody's complex relationship with the Indians, particularly the Lakota in his Wild West Show, and considers the significance of Cody's presentating himself as a defender of hearth and home. Warren's book is extremely readable and, although wide-ranging, is constructed with well-defined chapters that never lose the reader. Recommended for all academic and public libraries.-Clay Williams, Hunter Coll., New York Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
A lively reconstruction of what really happened in William Cody's life. Cody was the most famous American of his day, and people around the world knew his story: He was a noble savage of the frontier, left to fend for himself at an early age, became the youngest Pony Express rider in history, fought Indians with wild abandon and, as he put it, "stood between savagery and civilization most all of my early days." He also created the renowned Wild West Show, which spent three decades thrilling audiences with sketches of frontier derring-do that were as elaborately staged as any movie spectacular; his cast included many vanquished Indians whose names are celebrated today. As Warren (History/Univ. of California, Davis) painstakingly points out, there were many Buffalo Bills on the 19th-century frontier, and Cody seems to have borrowed from all of them; he may well have ridden for the Pony Express, for instance, but the adventures Cody reported in his unreliable memoir were unlikely in the extreme, such as convincing the famed Sioux warrior Rain-in-the-Face not to kill him. (The alleged encounter, Warren notes, took place in howling winter far from Sioux territory; the Sioux, sensibly, did not like to travel in such inclement weather, and a renowned leader would likely not have participated in such a mission had it ever existed.) Warren recalls Cody's career as a young partisan in the Civil War to the details of his scandalous divorce from his long-suffering wife and his many failures as a businessman-but also many virtues as a human being, despite his habit of stretching the truth; the wonder of the entertainment empire he created; and even his role in Bram Stoker's Dracula. The truth aboutAmerican history's most accomplished mythmaker turns out to be stranger than his many fictions.
“The most ambitious book ever published about Cody and his times. No one interested in Buffalo Bill, 19th-century show business or the many meanings of the American West will want to pass it up.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Warren writes with the tireless ebullience of a scholar in love with his material. . . . The grocery tabloids missed a good thing by not being around when Buffalo Bill was king of the box office.” —The New York Review of Books
“Meticulously researched and entertaining. . . . A fascinating and accessible study of a man who . . . can still teach us today about how things are not always what they appear to be.” —The Portland Oregonian
“Not just a biography but an examination of the cultures of the eastern United States and Europe and their relationship with the American West.” —The Denver Post