Legends and Lies Great Mysteries of the American West

Dale L. Walker; Foreword by John Jakes

Forge Books



Trade Paperback

320 Pages



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Legends and Lies is an entertaining, fascinating, and historically sensitive investigation into many of the great mysteries and puzzles of the American West. Did Davy Crockett, for example, really go down swinging Ol' Betsy while defending the ramparts of the Alamo—or was he captured? Who is actually buried in Jesse James's grave? Was the man Pat Garrett shot that fateful night in 1881 really Billy the Kid? How did Black Bart, the so-called "gentleman bandit," disappear? Why do some people believe that Sacajawea, the famous "Bird Woman" who scouted for Lewis and Clark, died twice?

The possibilities and paradoxes that define history itself unfold as Walker brings together little-known facts and elusive connections in a study that will be must-reading for all students and scholars of the American West.


Praise for Legends and Lies

"Walker's Legends and Lies is a masterwork of its kind, bringing serious scholarship and poetic prose to a subject that has too often received only tabloid treatment."—Loren D. Estleman

"A stunning accomplishment."—The San Antonio Express News

"Not only good reading, but good history."—Roundup Magazine

"A colorful, accurate, fast romp through some of the remaining mysteries of what was once the American frontier."—The Salem Statesman Journal

"A collection of strange and intriguing tales about famous characters of American Western history. The author's research has come upon many mysteries that resist ultimate solution. A prolific writer of the Old West, Walker (also a columnist for the Rocky Mountain News) examines the life and death of Davy Crockett, Meriwether Lewis and his Indian guide Sacajawea, Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Boston Corbett, the soldier who killed John Wilkes Booth, Ambrose Bierce, Custer, Crazy Horse, and the Mormon leaders who instigated the mass murder of a wagon train of 'gentile' men, women, and children passing through 'Mormon land' on their way to California. Walker, trying to fill gaps in the historical records by exposition of logical reasoning, finds conflicting testimonies, many rumors, bizarre tales, and conspiracy theories, and also credible accounts of the deaths of these larger-than-life characters. Despite several Mexican eyewitness accounts of Crockett's death at the Alamo, Walker concludes that he died as he lived—heroically. The mysterious 'suicide' of Meriwether Lewis opens several questions—did he know too much about the treacherous General Wilkinson and the unconvicted Aaron Burr? The song and story of Jesse James as a folk-hero Robin Hood is demolished by Walker as he argues that James was a murderer-robber who stole from both the rich and the poor and kept the proceeds. [Walker] stresses the detective-story aspects behind official history. Legends and myths grow around famous figures, some true, some exaggerated, some lies that add to mysteries, but he argues that legends tend to live on, whether true or false and that myths and fictions often overcome facts . . . [These] stories are absorbing and Walker's commentaries are instructive. They should entertain readers of American Western history and mystery fans."—Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

A LEGEND1The Day Davy DiedA Rendezvous at the AlamoOne of the most indelible and enduring images of Western American history was portrayed on television on February 23, 1955, in the final episode of the Disney three-part miniseries "Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier." Just before the final fadeout, Davy (Fess Parker) is seen swinging his long rifle in the midst of an attacking force of Mexican soldiers. The program, which was for kids, didn't show him dying, but kids knew, as their parents had long known, that Disney and Fess Parker got it right: that was how Davy d
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  • Dale L. Walker; Foreword by John Jakes

  • Dale L. Walker is also the author of The Boys of '98 and Pacific Destiny. In 2000, he received the Owen Wister Award from the Western Writers of America, Inc., for lifetime achievement in Western history and literature.