Reviewed by Luc Nettleton
Foreword by Frederick W. Nolan, Edited by Mark Boardman and Sharon Cunningham
ScarletMask, Indianapolis, 2004
Robert K. DeArment, who researches and writes about gunfighters and lawmen as well as anyone on either side of the Mississippi, wrote about twin brothers who became Kansas lawmen — Michael and John Meagher — with the main focus being whether or not John exacted vengeance for the murder of his twin 15 years after the event. His manuscript was far too long to be run in a magazine such as Wild West or even in a collection of Western tales such as DeArment’s own Deadly Dozen: Twelve Forgotten Gunfighters of the Old West. On the other hand, it was not long enough to become a book in itself. Most publishers have no use for such “in-between” writings no matter how skillfully done. Fortunately, that DeArment manuscript did not become lost and will not stay buried. His 44-page “Revenge! A Tale of Murder and Mystery in the Old West” not only made it into this 227-page book but also inspired the title.
Getting to read DeArment’s tale of revenge and mystery is sure to please any Western history buff, and it comes with a bonus: a half-dozen other solid, if not quite as long, tales produced by six other writers. In the foreword, Frederick Nolan calls the authors featured here “a magnificent seven of that band of grass-roots brothers, the best writers in the frontier history business.” Actually, one of the authors is a sister, Nancy B. Samuelson, who has a cleverly titled piece called “Guerrillas in the Myths: The Confederate Brotherhood of Western Missouri.” The other fine tales of frontier violence are told by John Boessenecker (Folsom Prison breakouts), Allen G. Hatley (assessing the Frontier Battalion of the Texas Rangers), Chuck Parsons (Ranger N.O. Reynolds’ arrest of the Horrell brothers), David Johnson (Joe Olney, alias Joe Hill, in the Mason County War) and Paul Cool (Jim McDaniels’ outlaw activities).
Be forewarned that these seven selections are hardly all tales of revenge, if that is your cup of redeye, and you might not readily detect a common theme that binds them all into one collection. But when you get into the various subjects and start enjoying yourself, it really doesn’t matter.