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Nighthawk Rising: A Biography of Accused Cattle Rustler Queen Ann Bassett of Brown’s Park, by Diana Allen Kouris, High Plains Press, Glendo, Wyo., 2019, $19.95

Diana Kouris again takes on a subject tied to Brown’s Park, Colo., where she was reared, this time profiling one of the state’s best-known women—“Queen Ann” Bassett. Much has been written about Bassett, but Kouris mined the archival documents, many never before used, to write this sympathetic but honest portrayal.

Bassett, often romantically linked to the Sundance Kid, was a rancher’s daughter, heavily influenced by her strong mother. She grew up cowboying in remote Brown’s Park, learning to rope and ride as well as the men who frequented the region. She was friends with Elzy Lay and Isam Dart, and had feeling for Mat Rash (the two had planned to marry). But the 1900 murders of Rash and Dart tore asunder Bassett’s world, fueling a lifelong hatred of cattleman Ora Haley, suspected of ordering the killings.

Kouris readily admits her interest in writing about Bassett grew from stories her own grandmother shared. As neighboring ranchers, the two older women were friends. But Kouris avoided the trap of writing from recollection, instead seeking out primary documents to frame Bassett as she was, not as legend has portrayed her.

Among the sources are firsthand accounts, like Sam Bassett’s letter to J.M. Blansit regarding the murder of Rash, Joe Davenport’s detailed depiction of Dart, Jess Taylor’s explanation of his relationship with and insight into the Bassett family, and Minnie Crouse Rasmussen’s account of the events surrounding the suspicious death of Bassett’s sister Josie’s fourth husband. Kouris also drew from a collection of Bassett’s personal letters and unpublished writings that convey her character. While the focus of Nighthawk Rising is clearly on Bassett, the book includes plenty of detail about her father, mother, brother Eb and sister Josie, offering a rounded perspective
of those who were closest to Ann and helped shape her character.

—Candy Moulton

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