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Buffalo Bill's America 

Several weeks after hearing him speak, I'm finally able to sit down with Louis Warren's new biography, Buffalo Bill's America, and I have to say it is masterful. I particularly enjoyed the early parts of the book: because Cody claimed to have engaged in so many different facets of the frontier -- Pony Express, buffalo hunting, Army scouting, etc. -- Warren tells us a bit about how each one of them functioned. Did you know that most buffalo hunters operated on foot, not horseback? That some Army scouts were at about the social level of bounty hunters? That railroad agents often required huge bribes to put a railstop in a nascent town?

Warren continues with detailed analysis of the meaning of Buffalo Bill's show -- including comparisons to Bram Stoker's Dracula. We feel the power of both the American West and Cody's near-simultaneous interpretation of it.

Of most interest to me is how the book is more history than biography. The title is wonderful because the book is indeed a portrait of the nation Cody strode through. But the man himself is always a bit hidden in the lack of source material. For all of the wildly fictionalized stories about him (and his acceptance of them), Cody himself was rather circumspect. Thus we have to see him through his actions, and others' responses.

Of course those actions are so huge that "Buffalo Bill's America" makes a powerful history of a fascinating era.

I'm always interested in feedback, via info at johnclaytonbooks...

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