This review first appeared in the Tally Sheet (Spring 2017, Volume 63, Number 2)

HEROES WITHOUT GLORY – Some Good Men of the Old West

By Jack Schaefer. University of New Mexico Press, 2016; Pb; 332pp; ISBN: 978026357663

This reprint of a 1965 book by Jack Schaefer (author of Shane) is a collection of mini life stories - biographies of twelve men who settled in the West and who are called ‘good men’ by Schaefer to support the contention that their lives are more interesting and exciting than the over publicised notorious baddies. One cannot help but feel that he’s right and that these champions have indeed deserved better. If there is a general perception of good men being in any way dull, this will change your mind. A balance is provided with the characters who are so well documented.

Schaefer has chosen James Adams (Grizzly Adams, hunting bears in California’s Sierras); George Ruxton (the Englishman who found the Mountain Men and became one); John Thompson (the postman who travelled hundreds of miles in severe weather); John Phillips (who rode through harsh winter weather through the Sioux nation to report the Fetterman massacre); Washakie (the wise Shoshone warrior statesman); John Chisum (legendary cowboy of the Pecos); Thomas Smith (the lawman who tamed Abilene, Kansas without firing a gun); Valentine McGillycuddy (decent and honest doctor hero of the Pine Ridge reservation); Charles Gardiner (Rocky Mountain doctor with a big lonely territory); Elfrego Bacon (Socorro, New Mexico peace officer, an A1 of the Southwest, who tamed and put fear into ruthless outlaws); Adolphe Bandelier(pioneer of American anthropology in the Southwest); and John Langrishe (talented actor who gave up a lucrative career in the East to become a beloved performer on the frontier). They all accepted much with courage and foresight as they built their lives in the West, often in remote regions, and battling forbidding climates and landscapes.

There is no index, bibliography or photos, but no matter: Schaefer was a born storyteller. This refreshing and lyrical book, which includes some apt rhetorical embellishments and flourishes, is a page-turner.

Raymond Cox


English Westerners' Society  

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