The American West by Dee Brown

Review published on March 12, 2018.

Although this book is somewhat dated in terms of publication, it tells a true and ageless story of the American West. The original concept of the book, as detailed in the introductory pages, is in itself a good story about how it all came to fruition. The author, Dee Brown, has written any number of related books over his life, and this particular copy shares shelf space alongside a few of them at my home.

Over 400 pages of incredibly well researched and detailed information make up the narrative. All pertaining as to how the American West was conquered between the very early 1800s up to the 1900s. It does not miss much out that could be deemed as important throughout. It features chapters on cowboys of course, but it dispels many myths that have grown up surrounding these riders of the range. How trail drives, cattle ranches, towns, the people themselves, the outlaws, the law such as it was, the native Indian, the military, the battles for supremacy between them, the country, the weather, the bison herds, the mountain men and fur trappers, the entertainers and the assorted characters that made up the American West all mingled together. They all vie with each other to be allowed page space. All in all, the book is brilliantly composed and loosely follows a date path to better explain the tale.

Naturally, the Native American Indian features quite strongly within the book, but it in no way interferes with the book, also by Dee Brown, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. Although that debacle does feature, it correctly places the events within their rightful time slot. So, along with other various tribal battles and false treaties, this book paints another vivid account of the actual Indian Wars. I enjoyed reading this book immensely, I admit to being partial to factual accounting like this anyway, especially about the Indians and how they were abused by the coming of the white man.

A fascinating book indeed, it leaves one with the knowledge that the ‘Western’ film depictions are altogether a fabricated false image, the real cowboy lasted only a short time, supplanted by the railways. Where once the majestic herds of bison roamed freely, sometimes taking days to cross a rail line, the voracious white man reduced them to bone-meal fertiliser, where greed and land grabbing led to fighting, and unsettling situations. All this is detailed wonderfully well for the reader. I cannot sing its praises highly enough.

Reg Seward 5/2

The American West by Dee Brown
Simon & Schuster UK 9780743490108 pbk May 2004

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