GHOST TOWNS OF THE AMERICAN WEST

Bial (A Handful of Dirt, p. 299, etc.) conjures up ghostly images of the Wild West with atmospheric photos of weathered clapboard and a tally of evocative names: Tombstone, Deadwood, Goldfield, Progress, Calamity Jane, Wild Bill Hickock, the OK Corral. Tracing the life cycle of the estimated 30,000 ghost towns (nearly 1300 in Utah alone), he captures some echo of their bustling, rough-and-tumble past with passages from contemporary observers like Mark Twain: “If a man wanted a fight on his hands without any annoying delay, all he had to do was appear in public in a white shirt or stove-pipe hat, and he would be accommodated.” Among shots of run-down mining works, dusty, deserted streets, and dark eaves silhouetted against evening skies, Bial intersperses 19th-century photos and prints for contrast, plus an occasional portrait of a grizzled modern resident. He suggests another sort of resident too: “At night that plaintive hoo-hoo may be an owl nesting in a nearby saguaro cactus—or the moaning of a restless ghost up in the graveyard.” Children seeking a sense of this partly mythic time and place in American history, or just a delicious shiver, will linger over his tribute. (bibliography) (Nonfiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-618-06557-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2001

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