Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Many Loves of Buffalo Bill by Chris Enss

This is one of those books where the title seems to promise a little more than the book actually delivers. Those hoping for a larger dose of romance and passion may be disappointed as this book reads more like a condensed biography of Buffalo Bill Cody with a greater emphasis on the women in his life whenever they come into the story, instead of allotting each woman a chapter to herself. By this I don't mean to imply that this is a bad book, just if you are expecting this to follow the same format as some of Ms. Enss’ previous books on women in the Old West you may be disappointed. Nonetheless, it is an interesting book filled with fascinating characters.

Here we meet Bill’s long-suffering wife, the jealous Lulu, who actually accused Queen Victoria and Princess Alexandra of showing her husband too much attention in a farce of a divorce trial in 1905, and get all the dirt on their never a dull moment marital drama, as well as the tragedies like the deaths of their only son and later one of the daughters to scarlet fever. We also meet Bill’s adoring mother and sisters. And some of his mistresses, including Mollie Moses, the lovelorn mistress who died of rat bites while living in squalor with her most precious possession a portrait of Bill upon the wall. And his most expensive mistake, actress Katherine Clemmons, her talent did not match her looks and all Bill’s attempts to make her a star ended in failure, but Katherine picked herself up, brushed herself off, and went on to marry a millionaire. We also meet some of the women whose involvement with Buffalo Bill was not at all amorous including “Little Sure Shot” Annie Oakley, the star of his Wild West Show, and Rosa Bonheur, the seventy year old artist who immortalized Bill and his favorite horse, Tucker, on canvas. When Bill’s house was burning Bill telegraphed his wife to save the portrait and let all the rest go to blazes.

If you are interested in the Old West, particularly the women, or Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show, and like a brisk, brief read, that tells you just enough to whet your appetite, even at the risk of leaving you wanting more, this just might be the right read for you.

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