Print in a Wild Land is a book that is more interesting in concept than it is in execution. The book's subject, the fourth estate on the frontier of tPrint in a Wild Land is a book that is more interesting in concept than it is in execution. The book's subject, the fourth estate on the frontier of the Wild West, seems promising. Newspaper men as a group often make good copy themselves, and a history of this interesting bunch on the wilds of the western frontier would seem to be full of promise. Unfortunately, that promise goes largely unfulfilled.
John Myers Myers is one of my favorite historians of the American West, mainly because of his unorthodox style and voice. He would often approach his subject with little regard for chronology, arranging events as they fell into the cadence of the story he was telling, and allowing the timeline to eventually sort itself out. His real charm lay in his unconventional voice, full of odd word play and folksy sayings. This usually worked well for him when describing the history of the wild open West. In Print in a Wild Land, however, both his style and his voice contribute to the failure of the book. Without a timeline to follow, or even a strong thematic grouping of events, this book is little more than a collection of vaguely interesting anecdotes that hardly seem to justify a book length treatment. Add to this the fact that Myers went so far over the top with his odd phrases and word play here that it moved far beyond his usual charm to become annoyingly distracting.
There are some redeeming elements to "Print in a Wild Land'. Myers salted it liberally with copy from the western newsmen, some of which is sure to bring a smile, such as the paper that grouped birth, marriage, and death announcements under the heading "Hatched, Matched, & Dispatched". There are quotes here from famous and near famous newsmen, like Sam Clemens, Ambrose Bierce, John Clum of Tombstone, and A.W. Merrick of Deadwood - there just isn't enough to justify digging through this unorganized mess of a book.
If you are a die hard John Myers Myers fan as I am, you probably still will want to read this book. My advice is that you find it in a library rather than searching for a copy to buy. It is not one of his better efforts. ...more
As its title implies, this book exposes the sordid history of the villainy and lawlessness of the 1856 San Francisco Vigilantes; a group who took overAs its title implies, this book exposes the sordid history of the villainy and lawlessness of the 1856 San Francisco Vigilantes; a group who took over the city, suspended legitimate law and order, ignored the U.S. Constitution, terrorized their political enemies, murdered four men, and threatened to take over all of California to separate it from the Union. Myers tells this story primarily by focusing on the tale of Judge Edward "Ned" McGowan, a remarkable character who was one of the few enemies of the Vigilantes. Though hounded unmercifully by them, he avoided their grasp, and lived to tell his tail. Myers relates the history of the Vigilante Committee through McGowan's experiences, and in doing so, helps to rehabilitate the Judge's reputation that had been unfairly blackened by his nefarious enemies.
Ned McGowan emerges from this narrative as one of the great colorful characters of the Old West. He came to California with the `49ers, and quickly established himself as one of the preeminent citizens of San Francisco, both as a judge, and as an active player in Democratic Party politics. He was a cheerful rake - the type of man who refused to show shame for enjoying his whiskey, gambling, or keeping the company of select working women. Like many of his time and place, he believed in the gentleman's code of dueling, and was prepared to meet his enemies accordingly. In addition to all of this, he was a writer and poet (though Myers gives him higher marks for his poetry than I believe he deserves). Beyond his harrowing adventures running from the wrath of San Francisco's Vigilantes, the rest of his life was likewise adventuresome. He prospected for gold in both British Columbia and the Arizona Territory. With the coming of the Civil War, he threw in his lot with the Confederacy, joining their army at the advanced age of 49. He distinguished himself while fighting in the Battle of Camp Bisland in which he was captured, and later led a group of Confederate prisoners in taking over the ship on which they were being transported and escaping from captivity. Even at an advanced age, he was still the adventurer, as he was drawn to such wild spots as Deadwood and Tombstone when he was in his sixties and seventies. He never recovered either his fortune or reputation; both unjustly taken from him by the Vigilantes who targeted him, yet he remained game until the end of his days.
Though I found `San Francisco's Reign of Terror' to be fascinating reading, its story is often convoluted and unevenly told. Myer's idiosyncratic writing style is full of colorful and folksy phrasing that while interesting and charming in its own right, here often serves to obscure the complicated story of the machinations of the Vigilante Committee, making those parts of the narrative hard to follow. Myers is at his best in this book when writing directly about McGowan, a character he clearly relished, and I believe, identified with as a fellow poet and rake. It is because of the sometimes confusing narrative that I have rated this book at only three out of five stars, though I enjoyed it, and still give it a qualified recommendation....more
Dead Warrior is John Myers Myers best, most fully realized work of historical fiction. In it his knowledge as an historian of the American west, his sDead Warrior is John Myers Myers best, most fully realized work of historical fiction. In it his knowledge as an historian of the American west, his skill as a story teller, and his gift for clever word play come together to form an excellent novel, second only to his fantasy masterpiece, Silverlock.
Almost all of Myers' fiction follows a set script. The protagonist-narrator is near the end of his youth, directionless, cut off from his past, with much latent talent of which he is only vaguely aware. He is launched by circumstances beyond his control on a journey quest which forces him to mature, realize his talents, and discover his true self. Along the way he goes through a series of adventures and meets many fascinating and unusual people, both friends and foes, who help to drive this process along. He takes every opportunity that he can to get whiskey drunk in good company with good smokes and tall tales. And he generally discovers his heart's true desire, although he usually doesn't get to possess it. The Harp and the Blade, Out On Any Limb, The Wild Yazoo, and even Silverlock all follow this basic pattern, and Dead Warrior is no exception to the rule.
With Dead Warrior, Myers fairly well perfected the above mentioned formula. His protagonist, Baltimore Caruthers was enjoying a lazy life in a Colorado gold mining town when the whole town dissolved and moved out, literally overnight, in search of the next big gold strike. Baltimore is left to wander, looking for a place where he can belong. He drifts south and west, meets several folk along the way who become both friends and foes, and eventually settles in to live in Dead Warrior, a raw, new gold mining camp in Arizona. It is here that Myers improved upon his formula. The protagonist and the town have a symbiotic relationship that adds a level of sophistication to Myers' formula that is lacking in all of his other fiction save Silverlock. As Dead Warrior grows from a new strike, to a wild gold camp, to a wide open frontier town, Baltimore Caruthers grows and matures along with it, and in the man and the town Myers shows us a microcosm of the West.
The wild adventures come fast and thick as they always do in Myers' novels, and the story is packed with colorful characters who grab your attention without having much depth - also typical of his style. But here, Myers so perfectly blended the romantic adventure of fiction with his detailed knowledge of the historical realities of the West that he created something that was more powerful and moving than his other historical fiction. If you are a fan of Myers' work, or if you enjoy Western fiction, this book should be on your must read list. I highly recommend it. ...more
A fun book about my favorite baseball decade - the decade I became a fan. It hits all the high/low/freaky points of baseball in the '70s, a decade thaA fun book about my favorite baseball decade - the decade I became a fan. It hits all the high/low/freaky points of baseball in the '70s, a decade that saw the first World Series night game, the rise of the relief pitcher, the DH rule in the American League, and the beginning of free agency. If you aren't a baseball fan, or have no interest in the funky '70s, you can probably take a pass on this book. But if you were a kid who grew up to love the game with the Mustache Gang A's, the Big Red Machine, the Bronx Zoo Yankees, and the We Are Family Pirates; if you loved Mark the Bird Fidrych, and thought Dock Ellis and his LSD No No were the coolest, then you will enjoy this quick read of a book....more