100 Oklahoma Outlaws, Gangsters, and Lawmen, 1839-1939
by Dan Anderson and Laurence Yadon, Pelican Publishing Co., Gretna, La., 2007, $16.95 paperback.
On the occasion of Oklahoma’s 100th anniversary of statehood, it seems to have been natural for Dan Anderson and Laurence Yadon to compile a lively compendium of every resident—or, in a separate chapter, celebrity passer-by—who expressed the state’s spirit of independence and free enterprise by taking up a life of crime. In all fairness, 100 Oklahoma Outlaws, Gangsters, and Lawmen, 1839- 1939 does not seek to imply that crime pays, since it devotes plenty of pages to the equally colorful characters who ended the careers of many miscreants.
What it does is provide a summarized survey of just about anybody who livened things up or raised the body count from the days when Oklahoma was called Indian Territory and was untamed, to the last stands of Bonnie and Clyde, Machine Gun Kelly, Pretty Boy Floyd and other car-driving, automatic weapon-toting psychos who found their inspiration in forebears like Rufus Buck, Ned Christie and Belle and Henry Starr. Civil War guerrillas such as Cherokee-born Confederate Brig. Gen. Stand Watie get their moment in the authors’ spotlight, as do a bevy of bad girls and role models for anyone interested in how not to be a successful outlaw, most infamously Al Jennings. For Oklahomans seeking a reminder of how wild their West once was—even as late as the 1930s—100 Oklahoma Outlaws, Gangsters, and Lawmen makes a convenient one-stop shopping place.
Originally published in the August 2008 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here.