*Includes pictures of Wild Bill and important people, places, and events in his life.
*Discusses Wild Bill's most famous shootouts and his murder, explaining what's fact and what's legend.
*Includes a bibliography for further reading.
*Includes a Table of Contents.
"Wild Bill was a strange character. Add to this figure a costume blending the immaculate neatness of the dandy with the extravagant taste and style of a frontiersman, you have Wild Bill, the most famous scout on the Plains."" – General George Custer
Space may be the final frontier, but no frontier has ever captured the American imagination like the “Wild West”, which still evokes images of dusty cowboys, outlaws, gunfights, gamblers, and barroom brawls over 100 years after the West was settled. A constant fixture in American pop culture, the 19th century American West continues to be vividly and colorful portrayed not just as a place but as a state of mind. In Charles River Editors’ Legends of the West series, readers can get caught up to speed on the lives of America’s most famous frontier figures in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known.
In many ways, the narrative of the Wild West has endured more as legend than reality, and a perfect example of that can be found in the legend of James Butler Hickok (1837-1876), forever known as “Wild Bill”. Indeed, separating fact from fiction when it comes to the life of Wild Bill is nearly impossible, something due in great measure to the fact that the man himself exaggerated his own adventures or fabricated stories altogether. When he was killed while playing poker in the mining South Dakotan outpost of Deadwood, he put Deadwood on the map and ensured both his place and his poker hand’s place in legend.
The best known aspects of Hickok’s life hardly distinguish him from other famous Westerners. Like so many others, Hickok headed west as a fugitive of justice, yet that didn’t prevent him from becoming a frontier lawman in Kansas, like Wyatt Earp. Hickok also became well known in the West for being a professional gambler and a remarkably quick draw who proved quite deadly in shootouts, like Doc Holliday.
What made Hickok stand out from so many of his day was that he was both successful at what he did and he managed to cultivate his own legend through tales of his exploits. By the mid-1870s, Hickok was notorious enough that he went out of his way to play cards with his back to the wall so he could see anyone approaching him. On one of the few occasions he did not, August 2, 1876, he was shot in the back of the head by Jack McCall while holding two pair, Aces and Eights (all black), now known as the Dead Man’s Hand.
Whether Hickok’s legacy would have endured without his legendary death is anyone’s guess, but by becoming the first well known Western icon to die with his boots on, he immediately became the West’s first hero. Hickok and his life story became the subject of countless “dime store” novels which cast him in larger than life roles loosely based on his adventures or entirely made up. Once Wild Bill became a fixture of American pop culture, he stayed there, and he continues to be depicted in television, movies, and the like.
Legends of the West: The Life and Legacy of Wild Bill Hickok chronicles Wild Bill’s life, while also analyzing his legacy and the mythology that has enveloped his story, attempting to separate fact from fiction to determine what the frontier legend was really like. Along with pictures of important people, places, and events in his life, you will learn about Wild Bill like you never have before, in no time at all.