Reviewed by Louis Hart
By Bob Alexander
High-Lonesome Books, Silver City, N.M., 2004
Although the title of his fourth book does not suggest it, Bob Alexander is not dealing here with the likes of Billy the Kid or Wyatt Earp. Instead, he offers well-researched, lively accounts of fellows like Charley Small (not to be confused with Luke Short), who led a gang of desperados south of Silver City, New Mexico Territory; Jimmy McDaniels, who was once mentioned in the same breath as Billy the Kid and Jesse Evans (McDaniels may even have been the first person to call Billy “the Kid”); and William D. “Keechi” Johnson, whose manhunting exploits have largely been forgotten. Other Westerners who receive their due include George Stevenson, a New Mexico Territory incorrigible killed in a prison break; Texas Sheriff Tom D. Love, who captured outlaw William Tuttle “Bill” Cook; and Texas Ranger Joe Sitter, an honorable peace officer on the West Texas frontier. There are more, 15 in all.
Alexander has previously dealt with unsung frontier figures — Dan Tucker, Dave Allison and John H. Behan — in full-fledged biographies. He now introduces us to some other Westerners worth knowing. Alexander is essentially doing what historian Robert K. DeArment did in his recent Deadly Dozen: Twelve Forgotten Gunfighters of the Old West — giving Western history buffs accurate, unembellished accounts of individuals who have largely been shortchanged in books.
In his introduction, longtime Western researcher Chuck Parsons says that Alexander belongs to an elite group of new Old West historians who insist on documentation and meticulous research. Among the others in the group are DeArment, Leon Metz, Joseph Rosa and Frederick Nolan — all of whom have written prizewinning books, as well as articles for Wild West and other magazines. No, we Western lovers don’t really get tired of different takes on the Kid, or the Earps or Bat Masterson, but we appreciate these well-presented introductions to less-publicized characters, whether they were SOBs or not.