Karen and John Tanner ~~ 4 1/2 and 5 Star Reviews

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The Bronco Bill Gang
Karen Holiday Tanner and John D. Tanner, Jr.
University of Oklahoma Press , Hardcover
**** 1/2
     The "Rip roaring West" had both its heroes and villains. The Bronco Bill Gang was made up of several villains who just chose to be on the other side of the law. Karen Holiday Tanner is the author of Doc Holiday: A Family Portrait. John D. Tanner is a Professor of History at Palomar College, San Marcos, California. Meticulously researched and footnoted, this book and the first book narrate the short and bloody career of Bronco Bill Walters and his gang. Some biographies are so factual they do not give you the feeling of what it was like to have been there. However, this book is one which questions what had been written by some in newspapers and their motivation with regard to castigating Bronco Bill for being involved in almost every crime that had taken place. Hearsay kept him in jail several times for long stays based upon newspaper accounts or unsubstantiated accusations by some who were facing the gallows for their own misdeeds.
     Criminal lawyers will especially like the description of one of the trials that found Bill not guilty of several crimes, including the shooting of a sheriff. His attorney raised reasonable doubt as a defense by claiming the key witnesses were not able to definitely say he was the culprit. Also, his alibi of being out of town stood up for the jury's finding of his innocence. Our intrepid authors seemed to doubt his story and proffered some very interesting anecdotal theories of their own. Another interesting feature of this biographical sketch is the exploration of how laws were enacted to thwart the commission of train robberies. Each of the states in the
territorial west had to enact legislation that made sure the train robbers were punished severely for their crimes. For a time, the authors point out, this worked, that is until the juries got involved and somehow refused to mete out harsh sentences to the wrongdoers. Of great interest are the photographs taken in 1898 and those which may have been taken a little later, but they all clearly depicted that by gone era. Bronco Bill and his gang crisscrossed the American Southwest, shooting, robbing, and killing until they were caught by a Wells Fargo posse in 1898.
     The Bronco Bill Gang is a realistic and well-told story that is a bit gutsier than Hopalong Cassidy played by Bill Boyd in the old Western movies that chased villainous criminals on horseback. This book is highly recommended.

Clark Isaacs