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David Crockett: The Lion of the West

3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  445 Ratings  ·  86 Reviews
Popular culture transformed his memory into “Davy Crockett,” and Hollywood gave him a raccoon hat he hardly ever wore. In this surprising New York Times bestseller, historian Michael Wallis has cast a fresh look at the flesh-and-blood man behind one of the most celebrated figures in American history. More than a riveting story, Wallis’s David Crockett is a revelatory, auth ...more
ebook, 380 pages
Published July 18th 2011 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published May 16th 2011)
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Jay Connor
Though "my" Fess Parker experience was the 1960's TV series "Daniel Boone," Wallis' youth was framed by the mid-50's Walt Disney "Davy Crockett." In his prologue, Wallis goes into great detail about the series and his family's subsequent 1955 summer pilgrimage to all things Crockett throughout Tennessee. I can envision a coon-skin cap hanging from his monitor as he wrote this only passable history.

Wallis accomplishes part of his stated objective. He strips away the legend -- "killed him a b'ar
Nov 22, 2014 Denise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, historical
Before this book, knew very little about David beyond the TV song and the Alamo. Mr. Wallis does a nice job of filling in the history that enveloped David, as well as some of his exploits and antics. I had not heard of Fort Mims though I did know that tribes and farmers fought. Also did not know of David's political life. Not meant to provide copious detail about the 1812 war, Indian wars, and conflicts with Mexico, this book provides enough to be familiar with the events, as well as Halley's Co ...more
Tony Taylor
Jul 11, 2011 Tony Taylor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting and well researched book on the life of David (Davy) Crockett. It explains away much of the myth about this man that not only crept into the American culture in the 1950s at the height of the Walt Disney Davy Crockett craze, but which also existed even during his own lifetime. David Crockett was a legend in his own time, but he did not go around with a coonskin cap or did he live the life of the popular Disney song. Fortunately he did take it upon himself to write his own auto ...more
Does a nice job of scraping away the 'Legend of Davy Crockett' and showing there was a pretty interesting guy underneath anyway.
Yeah, he was deeply flawed and his own worst enemy in many ways, but still a fascinating look at the man and the times he lived in. Crockett was there through a lot of the post-founding fathers time when the USA was expanding and finding its way.

Brutal reminder that this country was pretty much built on a foundation of blood and there isn't a bit of our history that doe
Jan 25, 2013 Matthew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Michael Wallis has written a great biography of David Crockett, that is as much a pleasure to read as it is informative. The biography gives even coverage of Crockett's life and does not favor one time period over another. (For those looking for a bit more on the events concerning the fall of the Alamo, reading this book in conjunction with James Donovan's The Blood of Heroes and Osprey's Essential History: The Texas War of Independence, 1835-1836 is recommended by this reader.)

Wallis' book is
Nov 06, 2011 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History buffs, American folklore enthusiasts
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 15, 2011 Eileen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This biography was just okay. The problem was that Crockett's life was not all that interesting. Yes he was a famous person in his day, but mainly because as a U.S. Representative he was known for his hunting ability, folksy stories, and his backwoods demeanor, and was the subject of books and plays. In reality his life was filled with moving from farm to farm to find some financial security, trying to stay ahead of his creditors, and long stretches away from his family because he was happiest w ...more
Jul 04, 2011 Ilean rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I decided to read this book after finding out that David Crockett was in my fathers ancestry line. My husband said that he had this book-so I read it. It is not an easy flowing book to read but it is full of facts, and dates and resources. I grew up watching the television Disney show about Davy Crockett, not even my father knew that we were possibly related. But in looking up family members on ancestry. com I discovered that on my father's side of the family that David Crockett was a distant re ...more
Jan 10, 2015 Gary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Print the legend," goes the famous line from "The Man Who Shot Liberty Vallance." And the same could be said about David Crockett.

Like the author, I was obsessed with all things Davy Crockett as a child, due to the Disney TV portrayal of him (in the person of Fess Parker). But here's the truth about Crockett: he wasn't born on a mountaintop in Tennessee, nor did he kill himself a "bar" when he was only 3. He had no sidekick naked George. There was no adventure with Mike Fink and the river boatm
Rob Roy
Dec 14, 2013 Rob Roy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biographical
We think we know the man, but really we know the man that Fess Parker portrayed. Here is the real Col David Crockett, warts and all. The reality behind the American Myth. This is not a hatchet job, but rather a balanced story of a man’s life, albeit, a man known as the “Lion of the West.”
Rick Hautala
Mar 14, 2012 Rick Hautala rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
History the way it should be written (other than saying the American Revolution ended with the Battle of Saratoga) ... clear, concise, and one-hundred percent interesting ... Good stuff that dispels myths and makes the real human being even more interesting than the myths ...
Jan 13, 2014 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I grew up with the Disney version of Davy Crockett, which wasn't the man at all. It sounds as if he had ADD. He was also on the move. He married twice. His first wife died from complications during her third pregnancy. He married again to give his children a mother. His second wife had a lot of children. David would leave his wife to go hunting, or to find a new place to live, etc. He ran for the Tennessee legislature, and held the office for several terms. He later ran for the US Congress. When ...more
Robert Melnyk
Good book about the life and times of David Crockett. I was a young child in the 1950's when Walt Disney made Davey Crockett into a national folk hero. I always loved Davey Crockett, I had a coonskin cap and Davey Crockett T-shirt, and loved watching the TV show. So, I thought I should read the actual history of the man. Well, he was not born on a mountain top, and he did not "kill him a b'ar when he was only 3", but he was a true American folk hero, even in real life. I knew that he was involve ...more
Feb 11, 2016 Bob rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of those rare biographies that doesn't give in to the easy hero worship of national heroes, Lion of the West does a fine job of showing a more human (and yes, inevitably fallible) side of the historical figure of "Davy" Crockett. While showcasing his storied past as a frontiersman, soldier and politician, the book also highlights the more unenviable aspects of Crockett's personality, the poor fiscal management and constant restlessness, which, hand-in-hand, seemed to be the catalyst for the ...more
Feb 23, 2015 Diane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
I learned much about Crockett the politician and how he became anti-Jacksonian. Even his decision to go to the Alamo, rather than joining Houston, was based on his Whig politics. This book openly discusses his mythic self, a version begun in his lifetime, and an honest picture of the man and his flaws and courage. I found myself wishing his political career had become a part of the myth, along with the hunter and the martyr. As a child, I often saw Elizabeth Crockett's grave in Acton, Texas with ...more
Rick Ludwig
Reading Michael Wallis's excellent biography on David (he didn't answer to Davy) Crockett was a pleasure, but it was also a real education about a time and place in American history that was never so vividly characterized before. This man's life spanned an era often over-shadowed by those immediately prior and post. The westward expansion during and after the revolutionary war was a time of hope, confusion, and hardship for those on the land and those spreading into it. Having recently read an e ...more
Donnie Edgemon
Wallis claimed to write this as an exposure of the real Davy Crockett, bursting through the folklore to discover the fallible human. A lot of biographers make such claims because they need new approaches to historical subjects to market to publishers. I liked this biography, but not because of any assault on Crockett's legacy. It turns out that Davy Crockett was larger than life. No, he didn't kill a bear when he was three, and no he didn't live under a coonskin cap, nobody really knows for sure ...more
May 15, 2011 Dennis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Because of Walt Disney, a whole generation of men have a fascination with Davy Crockett, a very minor historical figure, but a major figure of American mythology. This biograpy adds very little to our understanding of either figure.
Crockett's real claim to fame is his death at the Battle of the Alamo. Although essentially an illiterate man, Crockett managed to parlay his backwoods charm into his election to Tennessee politics. He served three terms in Congress without distinction, without spon
Mar 02, 2013 Patrick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fine biography of a real American legend. There has been a great of myth and untruths passed on about Crockett since he died at the Alamo in 1836. Much of what is thought of as 'common knowledge' is simply not historically accurate. This book cuts through the stories and tales to tell the real story of a real man. Crockett was a flawed human, yet he lives on in the lore of America as a character that is too good to be true. The Davey Crockett craze, began in the 1950's when Disney bega ...more
Dec 24, 2013 bup rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wallis does a good job turning the tall tales "Davy Crockett" into the actual man, David Crockett - that's his central thesis, in fact - that the man was different from the stories - and that Crockett himself fostered and built the persona of "Davy Crockett."

In fact, Crockett reminded me of a tea-party politician, or a 90's "Reform Party" guy. One can easily find parallels between Crockett and Ross Perot, or Jesse Ventura, or Sarah Palin or Paul Ryan. Crockett's home-spun common sense, his esche
Oct 26, 2013 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: goodreads
This is David Crockett the man that became a legend in his own life time. Congressman, father and friend to many who knew him. He did hun. He did have to live up to this legend of someone much larger in life than this single man. He did live up to the man of the legend. He became imortal with all of the men that gave their lives to contain Santa Anna's forces.

On 6 March 1836, at the Battle of the Alamo, Santa Anna's forces killed 189 Texan defenders and later executed more than 342 Texan priso
Rachael Booth
This book did a great job of de-mythologizing one of our national heroes - Davy Crockett. Crockett never seems to have used the name Davy himself. The author only uses it when using quotations from the time when people called him Davy. It was interesting to read that Crockett served three terms in the US House of Representatives - not something very widely known about him. It was also interesting to read about his home life - or lack of one. He seemed to be always looking for that next challenge ...more
Derek Postlewaite
A solid book. I wish GoodReads allowed for half stars because this one definitely deserves a 3.5 out of 5.

Wallis respects the man who was David Crockett, while also pointing out--sometimes subtly--his flaws (pro-slavery, selfish and self-important). I enjoyed learning about Crockett's small I independence in Congress. It did not make him any more popular to vote against President Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act. While Wallis listed alternative historical interpretations of why Crockett voted
Philip Guth
Aug 22, 2015 Philip Guth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read and I recommend it. Having grown up on the Walt Disney based Davy Crockett I found this book enlightening as to who Davy Crockett really was. Ultimately Davy was an interesting character in American history, but not quite the hero I had originally thought.
Richard Shepard
Jun 14, 2013 Richard Shepard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting and well-written biography of an early American pioneer who, as it turns out, is both more and less than the myths make him out to be. He really was a crack shot and excellent bear hunter, but never killed one "when he was only three". His ability to tell anecdotal stories was much appreciated by his friends and neighbors, and contributed much to his brief political career in Congress. On the other hand, later in life he became estranged from his wife and faced multiple fi ...more
Oct 02, 2012 Leelan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-book
This book makes Crockett much more human than any I have read before. While it is disappointing to learn that our heroes had feet of clay, it also makes what they did more understandable, more relatable. David Crockett never called himself "Davy" and no one called him that ever in print until Disney made him a media star. No, wait! He was a media star in his own time. Made famous by unauthorized biographies and dime novels. It saddened me to learn of his failed marriage and that his life was mos ...more
Gary Land
Sep 20, 2011 Gary Land rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I never owned a coonskin hat, but in the mid-fifties I was caught up in the Davy Crockett craze. I have long known that much of what I knew about Crockett was actually mythology, so it was enlightening to read this new biography. Crockett was far more complicated than his myth. His favorite activity was hunting but he also had an ambition for greater things, which took him to congress. But he was not a particularly effective congressman and certainly not a good family man. He had "itchy feet" an ...more
Mar 07, 2016 Tami rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was attracted to this book because I love Texas history and because my ancestors were related to Crockett through the marriage of Crockett's youngest daughter, Matilda.
It was interesting to read about his "outsider" status in the political world of his day and compare it to what is happening in current politics. Crockett was an outstanding hunter and storyteller, both of which helped him get elected in the beginning.
Among his many positive attributes, I can't say that taking care of his family
May 19, 2013 Ryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 19th Century history fans, Davy Crockett fans, Manifest Destiny fans, fans of the Alamo
Shelves: favorites
This is a light, fun, and easy read about the man behind the name. Dispelling myth and popular misconceptions while telling the folksy and adventurous story of David Crockett, Michael Wallis delivers a real treat by showcasing the frontier pioneer's endearing qualities as well as his overlooked, if not minimized, foibles reminding the reader that he was more human than legend. The book is enjoyable, flows very easily, jam-packed full of humorous adages courtesy of our subject, and teeming with e ...more
OK Dad
Jun 29, 2011 OK Dad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Met Mr. Wallis at a book signing at the Full Circle Book Store in OKC. Lovely man and his wife Suzanne was a hoot to watch navigate her new iPad.

Mr. Wallis even donned his trademark "Sheriff" voice to entertain my 8-year old during our short visit.

His version of the David Crockett story is told in full, living, vivid color and I enjoyed his retelling very much.

Took my sweet time with this one, choosing not to rush/power my way through. Relishing each colorful phrase as if Mr. Wallis was reading
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Michael Wallis is the bestselling author of Route 66, Billy the Kid, Pretty Boy, and David Crockett. He hosts the PBS series American Roads. He voiced The Sheriff in the animated Pixar feature Cars. He lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
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