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Monday, March 28, 2016

Bill O'Reilly's Legends and Lies: The Real West (audiobook) by David Fisher and Bill O'Reilly

Published in 2015 by Macmillan Audio
Read by Tom Wopat
Duration: 8 hours, 49 minutes

As of late, Bill O'Reilly has become quite the writer of history books. His "Killing..." series has garnered quite a bit of attention but this book is different than those. For one thing, it is not focused on the death of an historical figure. Also, this book was actually not written by O'Reilly. O'Reilly writes the introduction of the book and mentions that he used to talk about all of these historical figures and tell their true stories when he taught history in a classroom long ago. I can only assume that David Fisher and Bill O'Reilly sat down and discussed who to include in the book and the general tone of each entry.

The topics are as follows:

Billy the Kid (1859-1881)
-Daniel Boone;
-Davey Crocket;
-Kit Carson;
-Black Bart (Charles E. Bowles);
-Dime Novels and their influence on our perception of the Old West;
-Wild Bill Hickock;
-Boom Towns;
-Bass Reeves (an inspiration for the Lone Ranger story?);
-Custer and the Battle of Little Bighorn;
-Indian Summer;
-Buffalo Bill;
-Annie Oakley;
-The American Indian/Reservations;
-Jesse James;
-Doc Holiday / Wyatt Earp;
-The myth of the gunfight at high noon;
-Billy the Kid;
-Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid;
-Westerns on TV and movies.

Of course, as I listened I found some were more interesting than others. I enjoyed learning about Black Bart and I thought the Buffalo Bill entry was particularly interesting. My teenage daughter was particularly struck the by the nebulous nature of Billy the Kid. Was he a bad guy in a bad situation or was he a basically good kid forced into a bad situation? 

The Bass Reeves story was interesting but I do not believe that this African-American marshal was the inspiration for the Lone Ranger because the facts just do not line up. However, I would love to see Bass Reeves explored further on his own just because he is interesting all by himself.

There are some facts that just do not fit together well. It is bound to happen. This is a written by a generalist writer who specializes in ghost-writing, not in history and a former history teacher turned journalist. But, almost all of it is accurate and this book certainly does well as an introduction to the fascinating time period known as the Old West.

Tom Wopat reads the audiobook. I had no idea that the actor most famous for portraying Luke Duke on the Dukes of Hazzard read audiobooks. He was not bad. He had a nice way of giving a voice to each person when he read a direct quote. Unfortunately, they all sounded like a grizzled growl. He must not have been too bad - I blew right through this audiobook.

I rate this audiobook 4 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: Legends and Lies: The Real West.

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