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Nathan Ward wrote The Last Detective: On Becoming Dashiell Hammett, one of my favorite books about the author. It focused on his time at an operative for the Pinkerton Agency and the job's effect on his writing, giving a fresh assessment of his work. With Son Of The Old West, he turns to a lesser known, though no less influential, Pinkerton man and writer,

Charles Siringo's life encompassed most of what we think of as The Wild West and he chronicled that life. Coming of age in post-Civil-War Texas, he started working cattle at age twelve and went on many drives at the height of that era. Looking for a more lucrative and easier living after he started a family, he turned to writing his experiences down in A Texas Cowboy; or Fifteen Years on the Hurricane Deck of a Spanish Pony, one of the first cowboy memoirs. The book only made so much for him, so he turned to The Pinkerton Agency. They used his range experience to track down train, bank, and mining robbers and other assorted owh hoots. He wrote down many of his cases in A Cowboy Detective. He penned a few more books, including an anti-Pinkerton piece he wrote when the company tried to stop publication of Cowboy Detective. He spent the last years of his life in Los Angeles, occasionally working as a consultant on westerns in the fledgling movie business.

Ward portrays Siringo as something of of a frontier Forrest Gump. As a cowboy, he worked for famed cattleman Shanghai Peirce and and had a chance meeting with Billy The Kid. In Dodge City, he got into a saloon brawl that put Bat Masterson on his heels. The Pinkerton's assigned him to track down Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch. A major portion of the book is dedicated to his pursuit of the most dangerous gang member, Harvey "Kid Curry" Logan. In Hollywood, he went to Will Roger's parties and became good friends with William S. Hart, one of the first western stars.

The book operates in an open range sprawl, covering Siringo's life. Ward will often go into a side tale of an event Siringo was a part of or a man he encountered, like a history the trails he drove cattle, the Pinkerton Agency, Billy The Kid, or silent era film.We see how these times shaped Charlie and his writing. It all makes him feel like a relatable player in his times that a master of them many biography end up doing in a way that distances us from their subject. It also gives us some idea of where Siringo's on episodic writing style came from.

Son Of The Old West looks at a time where many of our myths came from with one of the mythmakers, even though most of what he wrote was true. Like Siringo's work, e feel both the romance and the reality of it all. Once again, Nathan Ward captures the relationship of a of a writer and his life and how it influenced his work.


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