From Publishers Weekly
In this ambitious biography, Warren depicts William "Buffalo Bill" Cody as a man who took a set of extraordinary skills, added a few fanciful tales and built a persona that made him one of the most recognizable men of his time. But it's in Cody's Wild West Show that UC-Davis historian Warren finds Cody's true genius: the ability to capture in theater the anxieties, cultural myths, ambitions, class divides and cultural direction of America as it approached the 20th century. Warren seeks metaphor and symbolism everywhere and is remarkably inventive in finding them. Readers who tire of the discussions of the domestication of America as captured in the Wild West Show, or theories that the show symbolized American labor unrest (with the Indians as stand-ins for labor), will find Warren's analysis of Cody's influence on Bram Stoker's Dracula or what Edvard Munch had in common with Cody's Wild West Show entertaining, if not totally convincing. Warren sends out a fusillade of theories about late-19th-century American culture, the American west and their intersection with the Wild West Show; some resonate, some are provocative and some simply (and unintentionally) amuse. All in all, Warren manages to both entertain and instruct. 41 b&w illus. (Oct. 14)
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In his public career, William Cody straddled two worlds and two eras. Born in 1846 in Iowa, he moved west as the nation expanded to the Pacific; he was a genuine product of the frontier who served as a Pony Express rider, army scout, and big-game hunter. Yet he achieved his greatest fame as the frontier was closing, and his Wild West shows, with their utilization of mass-marketing techniques and electronic gimmickry, clearly belong to the twentieth century. But, as Warren reveals in this engrossing and thoroughly enjoyable biography, Cody himself, and the public perception of his life, were always riddled with contradictions. In later life, Cody undeniably embellished his accomplishments, but Warren shows that, as a frontiersman, Cody was the genuine article. He was often self-centered, even narcissistic, but he seemed to genuinely like people and was generous to a fault. Warren has provided an outstanding examination of the life and times of an enigmatic "hero" who was perhaps our first media-driven superstar. Jay Freeman
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