Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson and the Wickedest Town in the American West, by Tom Clavin, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2017, $29.99
In its Wild West heyday Dodge City, Kansas, was a rollicking place that drew a host of historical figures, notably Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Luke Short and Bill Tilghman. That Wild West hot spot is the focus of this latest history from Tom Clavin, whose book The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, an American Legend (which he co-wrote with Bob Drury) was a New York Times best-seller. Clavin goes solo this time, bringing a great deal of humor to his storytelling, including the following gems:
That 15 men would be gunned down there in a year beginning in the summer of 1872 surely did not indicate that a golden decade had begun, unless it was for the undertaker.
A cowed court ruled on November 10 that the death was justifiable homicide—the justifiable part being if [Francisco] Griego was stupid enough to think [Clay] Allison would make peace with a handshake, he deserved to die.
Given that he was known along Front Street as Cockeyed Frank Loving, because his eyes were somewhat askew, it made sense that he was not a very good shot.
Clavin provides no new scholarship and cites a few incidents other historians have questioned if not completely debunked. He is unlikely to convince anyone, for example, that outlaw brothers Frank and Jesse James actually herded cattle to Dodge City in 1879. But he does bring the cow town to vivid life, and despite his lapses, Clavin certainly knows how to spin a whale of a tale.
—Johnny D. Boggs