Candy Moulton: Reading the West 10-14-13
November 4, 2013
Fall is the best time of year for readers as publishers release a lineup of new books, no doubt captalizing on the upcoming holiday season, but also, at least in my neck-of-the-woods making sure folks have a chance to stock up for winter-time reading.
It has been a few years since Mountain Press Publishing Co. released a new title in its popular Roadside History series, but they've just come out with "Roadside History of Illinois" by Stan Banash. I've know Stan — who prefers to be called Tex — for many years. Once we went on a road adventure in Wyoming together, visiting historic sites such as the Frontier Prison in Rawlins and Fort Bridger, before heading across the overland trails to see some fabulous ruts along the Sublette Cutoff of the Oregon-California Trail, and the signature crossing point: South Pass.
For his book on Illinois, Tex has taken to the highways and back roads. He gives us information about the naming of Chicago for a wild onion, and that the Ferris Wheel, processed cheese, the game of softball, the flyswatter, and the automatic dishwasher were all invented by people from Illinois.
This hefty volume (475 pages including extensive index), is one you can keep in the vehicle for reference as you travel throughout Illinois, or do as I did, and take a trip while sitting in your armchair.
This of course is the "Land of Lincoln" and you'll find the influences of that great American President reach throughout the state. Banash doesn't stick to the feel good stories about the state, as he also recounts some of the more "troubling" episodes — such as the Haymarket Square Riot, the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, and Indian depredations at Fort Dearborn.
The book includes a timeline, brief facts, maps, and an introduction by the late Dee Brown.
It is unclear how many years Tex spent researching and writing this book, but it is very clear that he did his homework. Even if you never go to Illinois, this is a good history of the state to have in your library.
Billy the Kid on Film
Billy the Kid was a little punk outlaw who is one of the Icons of the Old West. The image of him standing hipshot with his rifle, hat askew, and with a cocky grin on his face is one of the highest-selling pieces of original photography of the Old West ever sold.
Through the years since his role in the Lincoln County War of New Mexico, he has been the subject of articles, books, symposia, and film.
In his newest nonfiction book, Johnny D. Boggs has compiled the story of the Kid on film in "Billy the Kid on Film, 1911-2012." Published by McFarland, this comprehensive book gives you all the scoop on the 75 films about Billy the Kid. They range from the silent-era "Billy the Kid" released in 1911 (and lost so it's uncertain what the true storyline is in this film) to the two blockbuster movies in more recent times "Young Guns" and "Young Guns II."
I'm not film critic, but I thought Emilio Estevez was the perfect Billy — a short, cocky, smart-aleck whose buddies followed him with no sense for their own welfare but a tremendous amount of gunfire and action!
Boggs takes you into the filmography of Billy the Kid giving details and analysis about each production, including foreign films touching on the topic of the Kid. ❖