- Man-Hunters of the Old West by Robert K. DeArment
In Man-Hunters of the Old West, Robert K. DeArment focuses on those courageous men who tracked down desperadoes of all sorts with the intention of securing the reward offered. This is his seventeenth book dealing with outlaws and lawmen of America's West, and his next will be a second volume chronicling the lives of man-hunters. His first, a biography of lawman Bat Masterson (University of Oklahoma Press, 1979), established the criteria for others and demonstrated his talent for good, solid research and moderately colorful writing. His biographies of other western notables established him as one of the most reliable researchers of the genre, giving us books on the likes of Frank Canton, George Scarborough, and Jim Courtright. In addition to the remarkable number of books, DeArmant has contributed articles and book reviews to various journals.
Man-Hunters of the Old West deals with men who hunted outlaws on their own without the sanction of county or state authority. Establishing law and order as America expanded westward was never an easy task, and that was especially true in the western states. The sheer size of a county, state, or territory proved to be attractive for desperadoes or men simply wanting to lose themselves from someone else. In addition, communication proved difficult at times. The aforementioned factors provided a relatively safe haven for law breakers. For a law officer who was expected to act alone or with a small posse, the situation proved very difficult; help from the U.S. government was infrequent at best.
But there was a class of men who found this life to be suitable, men whom DeArment terms man-hunters. Often life on a farm proved to be so unattractive that men exchanged it for a life of danger and excitement. One did not have to become a county sheriff or a deputy U.S. marshal; a man could become a detective or a man-hunter and take his chances, for [End Page 237] the target remained the same: capture the man who was wanted by the law. The man-hunter did not draw a regular pay check, but rewards were the incentive for most of them, in spite of the dangers. Although vigilante justice certainly existed, wanted men were most often taken alive to face a judge and jury. Although reward money may have been the motivation to hunt an individual, gaining revenge frequently entered into the manhunter's motives.
The eight man-hunters chronicled here are James B. Hume, David J. Cook, Millard F. Leech, John R. Duncan, William S. Davis, William H. H. Llewellyn, Perry Mallon, and Charles A. Siringo. In lieu of merely reciting their exploits gathered from secondary sources, DeArment has delved deeper into their lives bringing new information to historians. Readers will appreciate these biographies of men who are best known for their man-hunting skills in such states as California, Colorado, and Nebraska. For many, however, the lives of those who found fame in Texas will be most attractive. Consequently the chapters on "Jack" Duncan and "Charley" Siringo will be read and pondered over first. Although Texas is associated with Duncan and Siringo, the irony is that Duncan's two best-known exploits took place elsewhere: capturing John Wesley Hardin in Florida and Jesse J. Rascoe in Arizona. The native Texan Siringo proved active in many states, primarily as a Pinkerton detective hunting the outlaws of Wyoming's Hole-in-the-Wall country and working in the Coeur d'Alene mining district of Idaho. Man-Hunters of the Old West is not only an enjoyable read but provides an example of what solid historical research can produce.