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Boone: A Biography (Shannon Ravenel Books) Paperback – September 23, 2008


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Product Details

  • Series: Shannon Ravenel Books
  • Paperback: 538 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; Reprint edition (September 23, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565126157
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565126152
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #145,348 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Many historical figures are more interesting in reality than in myth. Daniel Boone was one of them. Brilliant explorer, trapper and pathfinder, renowned marksman and revolutionary militia officer, he was also a loner, parent, legislator, settler and failed speculator. Poet and fiction writer Morgan (Gap Creek) portrays Boone in lively prose but also in excessive detail. Must we know of Boone's life week by week or of favored Shawnee coital positions? And must he give us references to Emerson, Thoreau and Faulkner? Morgan is a trustworthy, up-to-date authority who needs no support from others. Boone comes fully alive in his pages. Morgan's objectivity gives us a completely realized man, the greatest pioneer of the Trans-Appalachian west, who helped open Kentucky to settlement but kept going, settling eventually in Missouri. His luck was as legendary as his deeds, given what he seems to have escaped. Yet Morgan skillfully assesses and often questions the validity of all the tales of good fortune and heroism attached to Boone. Most appealing today, Boone was deeply respectful of the native tribes, a respect returned by the Indians, many of whom he befriended even when he was in conflict with them. If only others had possessed his wisdom and character. Illus., maps. (Oct. 16)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* It is, of course, difficult for a biographer to glean the reality from the legends of an iconic figure, particularly if that figure was already surrounded by myth and legend in his own lifetime, as was Daniel Boone. Still, poet and novelist Morgan has made a valiant effort in his absorbing and stirring chronicle of the great frontiersman. He strips away some of the most blatant falsehoods about his subject's life. Boone did not "discover" Kentucky or the Cumberland Gap, and he was neither an "Indian-lover" nor a particularly eager Indian fighter. Although the reality of Boone's life and character is more complicated than the mythology, he still emerges here as a fascinating, admirable, and even noble character. He was, in fact, instrumental in the opening of the trans-Appalachian West before the Revolution and fought in both the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War. When necessary, he fought Indians, but he also established friendships with many tribal chiefs. He settled in Missouri before it was absorbed by the U.S. and died there at the age of 86. Throughout his life, he displayed an adventurous and generous spirit that, combined with a tough intelligence, make him well worth the accolades he continues to receive. This outstanding biography will be ideal for general readers. Freeman, Jay --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

It is very well researched and written.
Susan B. Heard
Unfortunately, the flaws tend to make this book overlong and a chore to read in places.
The Pete
Robert Morgan has out done his self writing the best biography of Daniel Boone.
Matthew

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

73 of 75 people found the following review helpful By David W. Nicholas on September 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"Forget the coonskin cap; he never wore one." So starts this groundbreaking study of the life of one of America's best-known and least-understood heroes, Daniel Boone. Author Robert Morgan, a novelist by trade (Brave Enemies and Gap Creek) spent considerable time researching Boone's life, the result being a detailed biography that is well worth the reader's time.

Boone was born in rural Pennsylvania, moved to the Carolinas with his family as a boy, and then explored westwards from there. He wasn't the first person into Kentucky, as the author makes clear, but he wasn't far behind, and he established a good reputation for himself as a man who could find a way through the hills to good land, and would be honest with pioneers who were looking for a place to settle. He spent most of the American Revolution in Kentucky, participated only briefly in the fighting (in Virginia) and mainly was involved in conflicts in Kentucky with Indians, whether they were inspired by the British or were more opportunistic.

Morgan emphasizes Boone's naturalist instincts, and contrasts his expressed opinions with his actions--he and his cohorts often "hunted out" a region, then moved elsewhere once the game was depleted--and makes it clear that he was a contradiction, a man who understood the Indians but didn't care to live with them, who enjoyed the wilderness and wildlife but did a great deal to destroy or transform both. Legend has it that he would guide people to an area, and when enough had settled there, he would tell his wife they had to move further west to escape the press of civilization.

This is a well-written, intelligent biography, and I enjoyed it a great deal. I would recommend it to anyone interested in early American history, exploring, or the wilderness.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Robert Busko VINE VOICE on October 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At 538 pages Boone: A Biography is a terrific read. Robert Morgan, better known for his insightful and sensitive novels proves that he can turn his masterful storytelling ability to the nonfiction realm as well.

Boone: A Biography isn't easy to put down. If I called Boone a page turner it would be as much a statement about the life of the subject as it would be about Robert Morgans writing ability. Lets face it, Daniel Boone lived a life full of risk taking. He pushed the boundaries of the civilized world back and in doing so lived on the edge.

Born with a wondering spirit, Daniel showed his love of the woods around his Pennsylvania home at a very early age. Disappearing for long stretches at a time he explored, observed, and learned the ways of nature. He learned the ways of wild things, a gift that would later save his life many times.

One of the things a good biography does is tell the back story....the times the main character lived in. Morgan does a terrific job in letting us see Daniel Boone and the culture he came from. It was a rough time. The people on the frontier were beat up by life in general. Only the strong survived; the weak didn't make it. Cruel yes, but the country was better off for this reality. When James, Boone's son was tortured and killed by Indians, Daniel accepted the loss and then moved on. We of the twentyfirst century have a hard time dealing with that type of stoicism.

Wonderfully written, well researched, filled with copius notes, Boone: A Biography should be a sure read on your short list. Robert Morgan also includes wonderful pieces of trivia/folk lore. For example, where the term "buck" for a dollar came from.

Peace
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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful By The Pete VINE VOICE on February 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Robert Morgan's "Boone" reads like a very well-researched biography. Further, it gives a tremendous feel of life on the frontier during the Colonial Period and the first decades of our nation. When it sticks to Boone and the times, "Boone" is very informative and highly enjoyable.

On the other hand, a frontiersman like Boone obviously didn't leave a ton of biographical data behind. As a result, the author should have condensed his treatment. Instead he repeats himself a lot and at other time blathers nonsensically: running on about the beauty of the word 'Kentucky' or giving air time to a feminist critic who labels Boone's love of the woods as some kind of Freudian desire to deflower a woman. Sorry, sweetie, no sale. Sometimes a guy who likes to go hunting is just a guy who likes to go hunting.

The worst example of this is during the period where Boone explored the wilderness of Kentucky. Obviously there can be little to no documentation about this period of his life as he was in the middle of the wilderness, sometimes all alone. However, the author writes pages of stomach churning purple prose about what Boone thought and felt. Unless Morgan's telepathic or can communicate with the dead, these sections are coming completely out of his...ahem...coon skin cap.

Unfortunately, the flaws tend to make this book overlong and a chore to read in places. Further, the instances where one must question the validity of the writing tends to call the entire effort into question. As such, I cannot really recommend "Boone" despite some of its strengths.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on November 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Because he lived during the time before and after the American Revolution, the life of Daniel Boone encompasses one of the most important of historical periods. The story of Boone is the story of America, argues Robert Morgan, who is usually a poet and novelist, but has written a stirring biography of the frontiersman, _Boone: A Biography_ (Algonquin Books). There have been plenty of other biographies, starting while Boone was still alive, and all of them have either mythologized the subject or have had to attempt to clear the myths away from fact. The latter is not an easy task; for someone who was enormously famous and influential during his lifetime, there are surprising voids that we can know little about, apart from all the exaggerations and stories that have clung to the pioneer. Morgan has tried to make a chronological story, and it is a good one indeed, but it is not clouded by any undue admiration on the part of the author. Boone was a outdoors hero, but he was distinctly flawed when it came to the responsibilities of business dealings or legal documentation which he could not avoid. In fact, admired as he was during the time, Boone was during his life "accused of treason, fraud, and hypocrisy and was once court-martialed... He was blamed for dishonest and incompetent land surveying, and sued again and again for debt." Morgan shows eventually that Boone was not dishonest or incompetent, but merely careless. He only wanted to get more "elbow room" and get into the woods where he was supremely careful and capable, but one of the great paradoxes of his life was that he was drawn to people and they to him.

The demythologizing starts with the very first sentence of the book: "Forget the coonskin cap; he never wore one.
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