- Man-Hunters of the Old West, Vol. 2 by Robert K. DeArment
As every officer of the law realizes, criminals frequently gain greater notoriety than the “good guys” who hunt them down. This second volume of Robert K. DeArment’s Man-Hunters of the Old West series reinforces that [End Page 122] notion. Like the first volume, this is a collection of biographies of old west bravados who have gained less fame than the men they captured or killed. Sheriff Pat Garrett is certainly the prime example: as a man-hunter he chased down and killed Billy the Kid, the juvenile delinquent who has become an iconic figure known all over the world. Sheriff Garrett is lesser known.
The eight men whose lives are chronicled here rightfully gained fame for their deeds, but some have been forgotten. Harry Love proved to be a gallant soldier during the Texas Revolution, but fame eluded him until his capture and killing of California’s most notorious outlaw, Joaquín Murrieta. Tom Tobin gained recognition for tracking down Colorado outlaw Felipe Espinoza; Granville Stuart’s name remains tied to the Montana vigilantes; and Harry Morse achieved great success as a California man-hunter. Bass Reeves of Oklahoma rose from slavery to become a highly successful man-hunter, but he, like Morse, remains little known. New Mexico’s Pat Garrett ended the lives of three members of Billy the Kid’s gang. John R. Hughes, one of the four “Great Captains” of the Texas Rangers, is rightfully recognized for his accomplishments. The eighth, Texas-born J. Frank Norfleet, was a private citizen who righted wrongs well into the twentieth century.
DeArment points out that the acts of the hunted men were frequently horrendous, and due to the culture of the times man-hunters sometimes conducted themselves no differently than the men they hunted. Before a photographer was everywhere, men such as Love and Tobin simply beheaded their prey, a brutal but necessary method for proving they had gotten their man.
DeArment readily admits in his preface that he has depended on the works of various other writers who have done impressive research into the lives of Old West characters. John Boessenecker and William B. Secrest are only two examples whose works about Texas and California man-hunters are considered near-definitive, but in each case DeArment has been able to find additional information about his subjects. As a result, the reader who has followed the trails of outlaws and lawmen in the Old West will find this volume yet another that needs to be on the library shelf for further consultation and reading enjoyment. DeArment not only presents each chapter as a concise biographical study, but he also does so in a style that makes each chapter an enjoyable experience.
A number of years ago this reviewer visited with an employee of the University of Oklahoma Press, DeArment’s publisher. We concluded that he probably had no more books in him and that his three volumes of Deadly Dozen would probably be his last. Needless to say, he has not put down his pen. Since then he has published Gunfighter in Gotham: Bat Masterson’s New York Years; Assault on the Deadwood Stage, and volume one of [End Page 123] Man-Hunters. Now we have the second volume and we hope for a third. This body of work establishes Robert K. DeArment as the greatest living author of Old West history.