The Colonel & Little Missie
As I have previously stated, I am going to add other blogs here that have nothing to do with my photography. Some of these will be in regard to books and audiobooks. I love reading books, but since time constraints often prevent this, I have taken to listening to audiobooks, while I drive. The following, are my thoughts on such an audiobook.
The Colonel & Little Missie
By Larry McMurtry
Read by Michael Pritchard
This book is a look into America’s leading man and first lady of superstardom, Buffalo Bill Cody and Annie Oakley, arguably the most famous non-royals of their time.
From the outset it is clear that McMurtry is a nonbeliever and works hard to discredit Cody whenever possible. This wouldn’t so annoying—especially since he offers a plethora of evidence—if he didn’t continuously repeat himself, constantly going over things he has already established.
Not to discredit McMurtry, a Pulitzer winning author, but after hearing something once I usually get the idea. The second time emphasizes the point, but from then on it becomes superfluous. In this book there were many cases I caught myself sniffing and thinking to myself, Not again. I am aware that this is the norm in some biographical-type works, but in my opinion it is unnecessary.
William Cody was a performer and clearly understood that excess and drama were strong selling points when it came to his theatre. When Cody wrote his own biography—which is said to have been revised nearly as many times as it was published—he should have been more reserved. From what I have gathered, Cody approached his biography in the same manner is did his performances.
McMurtry establishes that Cody’s biography exaggerates the facts. The feeling purveyed is that Cody had began to believe his own legend, forgetting that beneath that veneer there was the reality of his life. To be fair, McMurtry gives Cody credit for being an excellent horseman who sometimes scouted for the US Calvary.
I estimate that McMurtry mentions Cody’s excellent horsemanship at least a dozen times.
His look at Little Missie, Annie Oakley, is presented in a much more favorable light. He presents her as mysterious and modest, a woman who insisted that after she died her embalmer must be female (again this is a fact that is mentioned several times). Where I had questions about her acts and intentions, McMurtry seems to have given her a free pass.
I’m not discrediting Oakley, who was a fine marksman, but from what I gathered from this book, it seemed painfully apparent that she and her husband rode Cody’s coattails at their convenience for their own gain.
Perhaps, being a fan of the Wild West, I take exception when someone so thoroughly lambastes an American Legend, such as Buffalo Bill. Obviously, Bill was the Colonel of his own hyperbole, but dragging him through the mud once is probably enough.
In the end, I admit that I did enjoy this book. It is well researched and except for the repetitious mentioning of mostly unimportant details, I learned quite a bit about the legend and the lie that was Buffalo Bill Cody’s life. Michael Pritchard delivers a good reading and his historian’s voice works well with this type of book.