Book by Dugan, Mark, Boessenecker, John
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A recounting of the turn-of-the-century exploits of Bill Miner, ``one of the most wanted outlaws in North America.'' He also turns out to have been one of the least colorful. Dugan (Interdisciplinary Studies/Appalachian State Univ.) and Boessenecker (Badge and Buckshot, 1988) attempt to breathe dramatic life into their protagonist with frequent references to Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy, et al., but Miner, it seems, was about as exciting as oatmeal. Born in 1846 in Michigan, he moved in 1860 with his family to the California gold-rush town of Yankee Jims. Soon, the teenager began his criminal career, starting out by stealing horses, then moving up to robbing stagecoaches. When trains replaced coaches, Miner made the switch with aplomb, though his success was spotty: During his career, he spent more than 30 years at San Quentin and other jails. Many of his escapades were almost comic, complete with slipping masks, uncooperative sticks of dynamite, and hoboes wandering unwittingly onto the scene. Meanwhile, the authors contend that Miner was the first gay outlaw in the Old West--but their evidence for this claim is nebulous. That the bandit engaged in homosexual activities while behind bars is unsurprising, and that he frequently traveled with young men is hardly irrefutable proof that he was gay. Because, in his later years, ``Old Bill'' invariably targeted the widely hated railroads, he acquired a reputation for stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. From the evidence here, though, his generosity was largely imaginary. The authors are at their best, however, when discussing the folkloric elements in Miner's ``Robin Hood'' reputation. Occasionally diverting but mostly as grim as a sheriff's posse. (Seventy-three photos.) -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Library Journal:
Miner's criminal career began in the 1860s and ended in 1911, two years before his death in prison. A gentleman robber of trains and stagecoaches, never a murderer, he believed that the railroad companies robbed the public and that he therefore had a right to rob them back. Although Dugan ( Bandit Years , Sunstone Pr., 1987) and Boessenecker ( Badge and Buckshot , Univ. of Oklahoma Pr., 1988) present evidence of Miner's sometime homosexuality and drug use, in his own day he was better known for his kindness to women and children. He became a folk hero in Canada and the United States, a wily rogue people would rather help than hand over to the authorities. Containing original newspaper stories, "Wanted" posters, and analysis of the outlaw folk hero phenomenon, this biography will appeal to Western scholars as well as fans of the 1983 film about Miner, The Grey Fox .
- Keddy Ann Outlaw, Harris Cty. P.L., Houston
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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