Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Legends & Lies: The Real West - David Fisher

David Fisher’s Legends & Lies: The Real West, an oversized book of 285 pages of text and historical photos, was published in 2015 as a companion piece to a television series of the same title. As such, I’m sure it provided much more detail and context than the television shows could have possibly offered. However, readers picking it up at this point, especially those who know even the basic history of the American west are likely to be at least a little underwhelmed by the book. 

That said, Legends & Lies does have separate chapters on the people that most of us so readily identify with the history of America’s westward expansion. Too, the chapters help the reader separate fact from myth even if they do not always provide enough context to explain effectively the motivations of everyone involved. This is very far from being the whole story, but I don’t think it pretends to be that. Legends & Lies, for the most part, delivers what it promises: a brief look at the “characters” that Hollywood and early television programming turned into mythical American heroes, be they “good guys” or “bad guys.” And, many times, they were both.

The twelve chapters are these:

  1. Daniel Boone: Traitor or Patriot?
  2. David Crockett: Capitol Hillbilly
  3. Kit Carson: Duty Before Honor
  4. Black Bart: Gentleman Bandit
  5. Wild Bill Hickok: Plains Justice
  6. Bass Reeves: The Real Lone Ranger
  7. George Armstrong Custer: A General’s Reckoning
  8. Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley” The Radical Opportunists
  9. Jesse James: Bloody Politics
  10. Doc Holliday: Desperate Measures
  11. Billy the Kid: Escape Artist
  12. Butch Cassidy: The Last Man Standing

Bottom Line: Legends & Lies is a good place to start for readers wanting to learn more about a period of American history that still fascinates so many people all over the world. The book is both a primer and a decent jumping off spot for more focused histories on the same topic. There is certainly nothing new here, and that is likely to disappoint readers hoping to learn more about the “lies” referenced in the book’s title. Frankly, this is pop-history and it is probably more suitable for a Middle School audience than it is for an adult audience. 

David Fisher


  1. Replies
    1. Definitely took one for the team this time. But I don't think I'll be doing it with another Bill O'Reilly associated book again. I've come to the conclusion that O'Reilly's collaborations, while not nearly as numerous as those of James Patterson, are just as awful.