COWBOYS, MOUNTAIN MEN & GRIZZLY BEARS BY Matthew P. Mayo
Twodot Publications $16.95
I know Matthew's work from his excellent novels for the Black Horse western range - Winter's War (also available in a large print edition) is a superb western adventure that could serve as a textbook of how it's done. Well his new book, Cowboys, Mountain Men and Grizzly Bears is a text book of sorts, that is its a non-fiction title containing fifty true stories from the distant days of the Old West.
There the text book analogy ends, though. The author has avoided setting out his tales as a list of facts and instead, partly dramatised events, so that they become all the more real. It brings everything to life and the reader is sucked into the thrilling stories, making history accessible and enjoyable.
I consider myself something of an Old West historian on an amateur level and, as such I was familiar with many of the events depicted here. But the narrative style gives it a fresh spin - no one can tell me anything about Wyatt Earp for instance and yet reading the article here is almost like reading about the O.K.Corral for the first time. There are also a great deal of stories that I knew nothing about and the fact that the stories are set out in chronological order gives the sense of a growing country with each passing story. This book covers choice stories from 900 BC - 1903, with the first story explaining the history behind the Head Smashed -In site in Alberta, Canada. It details a hunting practise that continued for thousands of years. It's a great story to start the book because when the second story jumps to the famous Lewis and Clark exhibition, we have a sense of the long history behind this supposedly new country.
The author, in his introduction, states that during his research he amassed more information then he could use, so I've one question for him - when will we see a second volume? This is a great book, it will be dipped into from time to time, for years to come. The author provides colour (okay, color) to the events covered, making this book as exciting as good fiction but as informative as the most academic of studies. Now that's a balance that must be difficult to achieve.
Check out the author's web site for details of where and how to purchase - HERE