From School Library Journal
Adult/High School--"Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows, not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred. Wages--$25 per week." Thus ran a notice in several western newspapers in 1860. Or maybe not. This is just one of many unproved "facts" about the Central Overland California & Pike's Peak Express Company, better known as the Pony Express. The Pony's day was short, a mere 18 months, from April 3, 1860, to October 26, 1861 (just two days after the completion of the first coast-to-coast telegraph line). The company was a financial disaster for its owners. The total amount of mail carried was insignificant. Ah, but the "twisted truth and lasting legend," now that is something a good writer can throw in his saddlebag and ride with. And Corbett does exactly that in this fine analysis of the famed riders of the Wild West. He does an excellent job of finding bits of truth hidden behind layers of myth. For example, Buffalo Bill Cody and Wild Bill Hickok were not Pony Express heroes, despite numerous dime novels and Hollywood westerns to the contrary. On the other hand, true heroes were lost among the lore. The feats of Robert Haslam and William F. Fisher were impressive by any standard. This book tells two main stories: what happened (so far as is known) and how the legend grew (about which much is known). A good selection for Old West aficionados, especially those who relish the challenge of separating fact from fiction.--Robert Saunderson, Berkeley Public Library, CA
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If MBAs existed in 1860, they'd have advised Russell, Majors & Waddell that their business plan for a cross-continental courier service was a loser. But the firm's folly was the Old West's gain, creating one of its most myth-encrusted mirages--the fabled Pony Express. In Corbett's discerning hands, the saga splits in two. The first part is his rollicking account of the Express, in which Corbett wryly picks his way through the embellishments that surround its short year-and-a-half existence. The second part ambles through the afterlife of the Pony Express as entertainment, accumulating Corbett's gallery of newspaper hacks, cheap novelists, showman Buffalo Bill, filmmakers, and local history antiquarians who peddled truths and fabrications about it. It makes for fun reading as Corbett handicaps which writer was a jolly liar, who was a conscientious chronicler, or what old timer's memories of his days on horseback have a smidgen of believability. The book is great entertainment in and of itself, but buffs of the West will virtually gallop to the checkout line. Gilbert Taylor
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