- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (October 24, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1476773521
- ISBN-13: 978-1476773520
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 22 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #703,151 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Blood Brothers: The Story of the Strange Friendship between Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill Hardcover – October 24, 2017
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"Stillman gives an account of the tragic murder of Sitting Bull that’s as good as any in the literature. . . . Thoughtful and thoroughly well-told—just the right treatment for a subject about which many books have been written before, few so successfully." (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
"Best of the West 2018. . . . Not to miss." (Stuart Rosebrook True West)
“Two years ago I published an essay here called 'How the West Was Lost.' In it, a handful of gifted writers—Ivan Doig, Joan Didion, Edward Abbey, and Jim Harrison—offered their takes on how Americans have despoiled their frontier. . . . Now I would like to nominate Deanne Stillman for admission to this distinguished group.” (Bill Morris The Millions)
"A compelling narrative that reads like a novel.” (Cynthia Romanowski Orange County Register)
"Splendid. . . . A strong sense of the spiritual power of place streams throughout. . . . [Stillman] has done a superb job capturing the essence of these two great Americans." (Bobby Bridger Austin Chronicle)
"Deanne Stillman's work is like one of Georgia O’Keeffe’s landscapes, forcing a different perspective on the American West. Stillman re-catechizes our national mythology by putting symbols and personas that we already think we know into new light." (Heather Scott Partington Los Angeles Review of Books)
"Deanne Stillman explores a historical anomaly with a researcher’s skill and a storyteller’s style." (Tom McGowan Lincoln Journal Star)
“Deanne Stillman’s Blood Brothers is a thrilling and elegantly written saga anchored around the strange friendship between Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill Cody. By puncturing the mythology of the Wild West, Stillman proves once again that fact is always more surprising than fiction. A landmark achievement in American history!” (Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History at Rice University, CNN Presidential Historian, and author of The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America)
“Blood Brothers is a story of sorrow and triumph — the sorrow of Sitting Bull’s murder in 1890 and the triumph, barely understood at the time, of Buffalo Bill Cody’s central role in preserving the robust culture of the Lakota and Cheyenne people whom Sitting Bull had led in war. Deanne Stillman tells the dramatic story of these two men — enemies first, then showmen, and friends at the last.”
(Thomas Powers, author of The Killing of Crazy Horse)
“Like a latter-day Joan Didion, Deanne Stillman has carved out an aspect of the American West. Not empty but populated by spirits, human and animal, the ghosts of lost tribes and now a fascinating culture clash only she could have offered." (Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler and The Shakespeare Wars)
About the Author
Deanne Stillman is a widely published, critically acclaimed writer. Her books include Blood Brothers (Ohioana Book Award Winner; Kirkus Reviews, starred review; “Best of the West 2018,” True West Magazine); Desert Reckoning (winner of the Spur and LA Press Club Awards for Nonfiction, an Amazon Editors Pick, based on a Rolling Stone piece), and Mustang, a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year. In addition, she wrote the cult classic,Twentynine Palms, a Los Angeles Times bestseller that Hunter Thompson called “A strange and brilliant story by an important American writer.” She writes the “Letter from the West” column for the Los Angeles Review of Books and her plays have been produced and won prizes around the country. She's a member of the core faculty at the UC Riverside-Palm Desert MFA Low Residency Creative Writing Program, where she teaches nonfiction.
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Note from November 26, 2017: I cannot believe how many other reviewers are giving this book high marks and stating how great it is and how well researched. The ignorance is astounding. But it explains the persistence of supernatural religion despite how clearly false it is. Apparently, most people just don't care about facts and truth or the closest that we can get to them. This book is clearly not a case of the latter. But just look at the shameless plugs.
When I picked this book up at a nearby store that gets advance copies of books, the author's photo in the back made me think of Sedona, AZ (land of new age woo woo), and of the Long Island medium (she claims to talk to the dead) for some reason. But I collect books so bought it anyway. I started to read it that night. On p. xiii the author wrote: "I have communed with wild horse herds…" I started to worry...
Now before I continue, it is expected that history books -- even those written by historians well-steeped in the topic -- will contain some errors. It just happens. Sometimes it's just a typo and sometimes it is an error of fact. But with this book many of the errors don't feel like simple accidents but more like the author doesn't really know the history so is perhaps a bit overwhelmed with getting things right. When Stillman writes that the Grand Duke Alexis set sail for America in August of 1872, I know that she means 1871. But when she calls Bloody Knife a Crow Indian (p. 79) and mistakes the Arikara scouts for Crows (p. 75), states that Myles Keogh is from Garryowen, Ireland (p. 81), says that the Apaches are known for taking scalps (p. 86), thinks that the Nez Perce "had been holding out for months along the Canadian border" (p. 100), that cavalry officer Eugene Asa Carr was perhaps the most famous Indian fighter of them all (p. 181), that Fire Cloud was of the Blackfoot Nation (p. 194), instead of the Blackfeet tribe of Sioux/Lakota (for those really into tribal affiliation, I have also seen it listed that a Fire Crow was Hunkpapa, assuming they are the same man), and lastly that thousands of Indians were gunned down in massacres in U.S. Cavalry attacks (p. 182) (not to downplay the numbers, but I'm fairly certain this is an exaggeration), I know that she doesn't really know her topic that well. Yes, none of that is directly related to the main theme of the book (which, by the way, is perhaps overblown since the two men were only together for about 4 months). But it does cause concern for the informed reader.
Here are some more points of clarification and corrections if you read this book:
p. 63 (bottom)
The way Stillman writes it, it sounds like Sitting Bull was at the Fort Laramie Treaty council in 1868, but he wasn’t.
Gall signed the treaty of 1868, but it was at Fort Rice, not Fort Laramie, which is implied in Stillman's narrative (see Sitting Bull by Stanley Vestal, pp. 109-110).
The Alexis/Cody/Custer/Sheridan buffalo hunt took place in Nebraska, quite far from where Sitting Bull ranged, primarily in Montana and North Dakota. He wouldn’t have happened upon the dead buffalo left behind from the Grand Duke’s hunting trip.
Regarding the Cheyenne Indian killed by Cody on July 17, 1876: His correct name (or at least the one that is now accepted as accurate) was Yellow Hair, not Yellow Hand (she gives both names then prefers Yellow Hand).
Crazy Horse surrendered at Fort Robinson on May 6, 1877, not May 7.
p. 187 (top)
"shortly before the cataclysm at Wounded Knee” should read “shortly after…"
Okay, now here are some examples of what I will refer to as new-age/mystical thinking (this is not a complete list and I don't think they belong in a history book; one such comment could be "cute" but it quickly grew tiresome):
"When exactly he [Crazy Horse] arrived at the [LBH] fight is a mystery; perhaps, as per his vision, the gopher dust made him disappear until he galloped onto the battlefield."
"... and overhead a falcon may have ridden the current, for that was one of Sitting Bull’s protectors, and surely the winged and the four-leggeds would have been on guard in some way, alerted by a derangement in their surroundings and the silent news that an important member of the circle [Sitting Bull] would be leaving it for a while."
"It was the most treacherous weather some had seen in years, nature’s response to the departure of a thunder dreamer -- Sitting Bull, who years later would perform a ceremony that ended a drought."
Stillman writes about friendship (meaning between Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill) and then states: "... there are those [friendships] in which mysterious forces, the hand of the Creator [please explain] perhaps, necessity, desire, brings two people together, even former enemies…" Talk about nonsense. It wouldn’t be a stretch then that the “creator” did this just so that Deanne Stillman could eventually write this book. It was her preordained destiny.
"Little Miss Sure Shot was bound to be a superstar, for it is inside the act of pulling the trigger that America resides. Mysterious are the forces that lead us to one another, at certain times, for certain reasons, and looking back on that era, it would seem that Sitting Bull’s meeting with Annie Oakley in St. Paul was written on the winds, for without that nickname she would have been billed differently, and quite possibly different things would have happened." The "pulling the trigger" quote is pretty good. But the rest of this quote implies a creator who is causing things to happen. In effect, this makes us all just puppets playing out someone else’s drama. Of course, with all the possibilities of things that could happen in the universe, there are going to be what look like fortuitous events in hindsight. The question is, was it a natural event or was some mysterious force guiding it? And if that last point is true, then really, everything that happens was just meant to happen, good, bad or otherwise. I just don’t believe that. This is a case of counting the hits and disregarding the misses. Sure, there’s going to be some nice hits such as Annie Oakley being given the name Little Sure Shot by Sitting Bull. That doesn’t mean there is anything else going on here, some mysterious force that caused it to happen. If so, then the same mysterious force caused me to write this review.
Did I like anything in the book? Yes, here and there. For instance, this made me laugh: As a boy Cody engaged "in tasks and acts that would now violate every child labor law on the books" (p. 33). A great line. And I like this paragraph from p. 143 that starts with: “The primary attraction of course was William Cody, who seemed to fulfill a national need for one man to step forward from the stage of Manifest Destiny and own it." A paragraph worth quoting. Those two I took note of. I'm sure there were a few more. This book could just as easily have been a magazine article about the relationship between Sitting Bull and Cody. And unless it was going to be published in some new age magazine, the author would be best served by just sticking to the historical facts (and keeping any conjecture in the land of reality).
I've got about 25 pages to go.
I'm sure the author is a very nice woman. But this isn't my kind of book.