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Born on a Mountaintop: On the Road with Davy Crockett and the Ghosts of the Wild Frontier Hardcover

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Born on a Mountaintop: On the Road with Davy Crockett and the Ghosts of the Wild Frontier + The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend + The Western Reader
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (March 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307720896
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307720894
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #611,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier, preferred to be called David. He was a frontiersman, but he was also a U.S. congressman. He was an Indian fighter, but he also fought for Indian rights. He probably didn’t spend a lot of time wearing buckskin, despite what Disney would have you believe. (He did die at the Alamo—that part is true.) Thompson’s mission here is to separate myth about Crockett from historical fact. Unfortunately, there’s precious little historical fact to be found. Even the experts—Thompson calls them Crockettologists—freely admit that much of what they know is based on historical detective work, not fact. Crockett became a pop-culture icon in the years just before his death and was the subject of a play, an anonymously written biography (which Crockett hated), and his own autobiography (whose accuracy is also questionable). As colorful as the Crockett legend is, it appears from this very entertaining book that the truth about the man could be equally colorful—if you can somehow get at the whole truth, that is. --David Pitt


Born on a Mountaintop is an enjoyable journey along the trail of Crockett’s life and legend — part road trip and part history lesson....[Thompson's] storytelling displays considerable good humor and an admirable amount of research. You can almost see him smiling at some of the madcap stuff he is told along the way." --Washington Post

“Bob Thompson can flat-out write, and he paints a vivid picture here of David Crockett, who was a far more complex and interesting man—and myth—than his coonskinned, bear-hunting, Alamo-defending iconic image. He combines excellent research and a born storyteller’s skill to create a lively and entertaining look at one of America’s great characters. This is road-trip history at its best.” – Jim Donovan, author of The Blood of Heroes 

Born on a Mountaintop explores the blurry boundary between America’s legends and histories, and how the relationship between the two often tells us much about the construction of belief in the absence of hard facts.  And, it is also a great road trip--one that leaves you wanting to have ridden shotgun along the way.” – Charles Frazier, author of Nightwoods and Cold Mountain

"Bob Thompson's shrewd and heartfelt account of his year-long journey through the thickets of Davy Crockett lore is essential reading for anyone who's ever worn a coonskin cap, dreamt of the wild frontier, or remembered the Alamo.  A briskly entertaining book that nonetheless has serious things to say about how we memorialize--and inevitably mythologize--the iconic figures of our history." – Gary Krist, author of City of Scoundrels 

"I opened this book intending to skim a few pages but immediately became hooked. Thompson does a splendid job of evoking the life and legend of David Crockett--the immortal 'Davy' who captivated young Americans because of Fess Parker's portrayal in the 1950s, served as an icon for Anglo-Texans who venerated the memory of the Alamo, and served as a touchstone for anyone drawn to the image of backwoods characters who triumphed in America. By turns engrossing, hilarious, and moving, it undoubtedly will find a large and appreciative audience.” - Gary W. Gallagher, author of Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten: How Hollyood and Popular Art Shape What We Know about the Civil War
“Part travelogue, part biography, part history, Born on a Mountaintop is most of all a pure pleasure to read. The passion in Bob Thompson's search for the truth about Davy Crockett springs from every page, and by the end, his search has become our own.” -David Finkel, author of The Good Soldiers
“If Confederates In The Attic shifted its focus to frontier legend David Crockett, the result would be Born on a Mountaintop.  Bob Thompson's highly personal and witty new book looks with perception at the real Crockett as opposed to the mythical "Davy," how Americans embraced the latter in his own time, and how popular culture has handled his multiple persona since his death.  Crockett is a virtually irresistible character in his own right, but Thomson somehow succeeds in making him even more appealing.” - William C. Davis, author of Three Roads to the Alamo
"Bob Thompson blazes the dangerous trail between myth and history with the skill of a fine scholar and the wit of a born storyteller.  I never realized the search for Davy Crockett, real and imagined, could be so enlightening and so much fun."
- Michael Kazin, Professor of History, Georgetown University and author of American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation

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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Sam Sattler on March 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Born on a mountain top in Tennessee,
Greenest state in the land of the free.
Raised in the woods so's he knew every tree,
Killed him a bear when he was only three.

Davy, Davy Crockett King of the Wild Frontier.

Just looking at the title of Bob Thompson's new Davy Crockett book, Born on a Mountaintop, gets me humming this old Disney song from the fifties - even to the point that I have a hard time getting it back out of my head. Men (and probably more than a few women) of a certain age are likely to have fond memories of the five-segment Walt Disney "Disneyland" series that spawned this little tune and all the Davy Crockett gear we managed to wear out between 1955 and 1956. I still remember the coonskin cap I wore everywhere and the little plastic frontier "rifle" I carried with me.

Suddenly, children across America were obsessed by a fabled hero that grabbed our imaginations like nothing had before. Davy's (as portrayed by actor Fess Parker) face was on so many lunch boxes, magazines, comics, bubble gum cards, coloring books, games, and pajamas that Walt Disney was probably able to pay for most of Disneyland with his company's share of the sales proceeds. Davy Crockett was that big - and we loved him. Little did most of us suspect, at least at the beginning, that he had been a real man. He really had been a congressman, an Indian-fighter (of a sort), and had died a hero's death at the Alamo. When we found this out, especially those of us growing up in Texas, we were more enchanted by the idea of Davy Crockett than ever before. The man will be a mythical hero to us for the rest of our lives.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By mrliteral VINE VOICE on February 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In its over two centuries of existence, the United States has developed its fair share of legends to accompany its history. Somewhere in that hazy zone between the two is Davy Crockett, a real person who has worked his way into the mythology of the U.S. in general and more specifically the one-time western frontier of Tennessee, Kentucky and Texas.

Bob Thompson's Born on a Mountaintop is superficially a biography of Crockett. As becomes quickly apparent, however, there aren't much in the way of facts about Crockett. Born in a rural area without much literacy, there weren't much records of his early life, and even his later years would be rather sketchily documented. Essentially, most of what you think you know about Crockett is a likely fiction.

As stated in the Western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." This is what happened with Crockett: even during his lifetime, he was a celebrity renowned for adventures that likely never happened. After his death, the stories would both get wilder and become more entwined in his biography.

This is where Thompson's book succeeds. Rather than just telling the story of Crockett's life, he tells the story of Crockett's biography and how it has evolved. Working in roughly chronological order, Thompson visits the various sites where Crockett had been and tries to glean the truth behind the legends. The various depictions of Crockett in film (most notably, the Fess Parker version by Disney) are also discussed.

Of course, it was the Alamo that made Crockett a martyr, and Thompson also discusses the many controversies regarding Crockett's exact role (and manner of death) in that siege. The truth may never be completely known, but we will still have the legend.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By ironman96 VINE VOICE on March 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
First, if you are a Davy Crockett fan, you should add this to your collection. The author does a fine job of taking a look at the various facets of Davy Crockett--known history, legend, myth, and the unknown. From reading the book, I was surprised to learn how much of what we think we know about Crockett is uncertain. So much of what we know is a mix of legend, myth, and speculation. It seems there is a lot we will never fully know. This book is not your typical popular history. It is the story of Davy Crockett told through the author's personal journey of exploration (hence the part of the title "On the Road"). The author travels to the major places in Crockett's life--where he was born and raised, where he fought in the Creek Indian War, where he was a politician, and then to Texas and the Alamo. Along the way, he finds the local Crockettologists and gets into the weeds. I enjoyed this type of format at first but started to lose interest in the author's personal journey as the book went on. You can tell the author has a very strong interest in and appreciation of Crockett and it shows in his writing. The other thing that shows is that the author is writing about Crockett through the lens of a Washington Post reporter/writer and a New Englander. There is nothing wrong with that, but there is a certain tone that comes across when you are dealing with a figure who is considered an "all-American hero."
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Michael P. Lefand VINE VOICE on February 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
On the road with author Bob Thompson as he tries to peel back the layers of legendary tales of Davy Crockett and find the real man in his new book "Born on a Mountaintop." In this book Thompson travels in the footsteps of Crockett, from the place of his birth in the Tennessee River valley to his short stint serving in Congress to his demise fighting at the Alamo. Along the way Thompson reveals the facts that are obscured by the myth that grew around the exploits of the "King of the Wild Frontier."

My vision of Davy Crockett was formed during my childhood. I grew up with Fess Parker and John Wayne playing Crockett on TV and in film, and more recently Billy Bob Thornton. Mention Davy Crockett and the image of a heroic figure in coonskin hat and fringed buckskin blazing his way across the Wild West immediately comes to mind.

Thompson looked at these representations of Crockett and has written about how they evolved from the true figure. Thompson inserted in his book little nuggets of facts that I found interesting. Such as, the comparison of the Brown Bess musket, a .75 caliber smoothbore, and the American long rifle, a .45 caliber favored by Americans since the revolution. The American long rifle took longer to load but was more accurate and was the weapon the defenders had at the Alamo.

The last part of Thompson's book delves into controversies that have arisen over Crockett's death at the Alamo. He covered quite extensively the debate over whether Crockett was killed fighting, or surrendered and was executed by Santa Anna. The controversy began in 1975 when the diary of Jose Enrique de la Pena, a Mexican officer with Santa Anna, was brought to light by a Texas librarian.

I found "Born on a Mountaintop" entertaining.
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