CULT OF GLORY

THE BOLD AND BRUTAL HISTORY OF THE TEXAS RANGERS

Revisionist history done well, if not likely to please Chuck Norris die-hards.

A comprehensive account of the Texas Rangers, perhaps the most storied police force in American history.

There’s Walker, Texas Ranger, and then there’s The Lone Ranger, the latter recounting “a crime-fighting career that spanned almost ninety years.” There are Lonesome Dove and many an oater. Celebrated in popular culture very nearly from the beginnings of the organization almost 200 years ago, the Texas Rangers have always been a small outfit with an oversized image. Even today, writes former Dallas Morning News reporter Swanson, now a journalist professor at the University of Pittsburgh, there are only some 160 Rangers on active duty in a state of 29 million people. In the force’s early days, most of their work involved fighting the Natives, and the legacy of conflict between the group and non-Anglos is strong. The author points out that it was only in 1969 that an officer of Hispanic descent was admitted, and more than two decades would pass before an African American was allowed into the service. That legacy includes, in recent history, the use of the Rangers to break up a strike of Hispanic farmworkers, a cloud on a reputation already marked by episodes of violence. Still, as Swanson writes—after recounting tales ranging from Ranger incursions into Mexico to the successful hunt for outlaws Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker—the force is slightly more representative of Texas’ population today, with about a quarter of its number representing ethnic minorities, and all now recruited from the state’s highway patrol. “The perils have dwindled in the modern era—no one is pulling Comanche arrows from their foreheads anymore—but the job still carries risks,” Swanson concludes. His narrative is a touch too long and sometimes repetitive but understandably so, given the big story he has to tell, expanding on, updating, and sometimes correcting works by writers such as Walter Prescott Webb and John Boessenecker.

Revisionist history done well, if not likely to please Chuck Norris die-hards.

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-101-97986-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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  • National Book Award Finalist

Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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