We've started to try to clear some shelves out by putting some books up on eBay, and we have a few on Western Americana up there this week, including a book on the "Buntline Special Myth".
I'm always a sucker for stories about fakes and frauds, artistic, archeolohggical or historical, and this seems to fit the bill. The story of how Wyatt Earp and four other Dodge City marshalls were given special long-barreled guns by dime-novelist Ned Buntline in 1876 has become part of Western lore. The tale first appeared in Stuart N. Lake's 1931 book "Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshall", and has been repeated as gospel ever since.
But is it true?
In his book "Wyatt Earp & the 'Buntline Special Myth'" historian William Shillingberg takes a close look not only at the "Buntline Special" story, but at other aspects of Lake's book, and comes to a conclusion that you've probably already guessed from the title... Suffice it to say that Lake has always been a controversial author, and there's a lot wrong with his biography.
Along the way Shillingberg quotes from the letters and recollections of many folks who knew Earp throughout his life, and other period sources about Dodge City and the goings-on there during its wild and wooly days, so this is a piece of Western history in itself, as well as an expose of a popular fraud.
It's ending this evening, but we have other books up as well ending as the week goes along. Please take a look if you're interested in this sort of thing.