Wild Bill"" Hickok, frontier marshal, gambler, perhaps the greatest gunman the West has seen and an established part of American legend, has been called a ruthless killer and a harbinger of civilization, a homicidal maniac and a man dedicated to law and order. In this excellent biography the author of Guns of Chickamauga, Johnstown: the Day the Dam Broke, Bat Masterson, etc., endeavors to set the record straight. Born in Troy Crove, Ill., in 1837, Hickok, whose real name was James Butler Hickok, went to Kansas in 1855 and became involved in border warfare; possessing an obsession for guns and a genius for firing them in a hurry and hitting his targets, he killed his first man, McCanles, in 1861. By profession a gambler, preferring luxury to violence, he gained fame as marshal of Hays City, Kans., in the roaring days of the cattle drives; seldom the aggressor in a fight, he killed, not the 100 men claimed for him, but some 17; wandering the West for years, he knew the over-rated Calamity Jane but was not her devoted lover. At the age of 39 in Deadwood, S. D., two weeks after his marriage to a former circus performer, he made the mistake of sitting with his back to the door in a gambling saloon and was shot by a stranger who wanted the glory of killing him. Carefully documented, highly readable, this well-written biography should appeal to devotees of Western fact and fiction alike and to TV addicts and writers of ""westerns;"" it is a must for all historical collections of the gunfighting days of the old West.