The Washington Times published my review of Tom Clavin’s Will Bill: The True Story of the American Frontier’s First Gunfighter.
The Wild West quick-draw showdown, a duel and test of speed, accuracy and grit, with two gunfighters facing each other on a dusty street in a Western frontier town, is a staple feature of nearly every Western cowboy film and TV series since the beginning of motion pictures.
This scene rarely happened, as gunfights on the American frontier were generally a more spontaneous affair of firearms drawn on the spot of the disagreement with shots fired wild and a few finding their mark. But James Butler Hickok, better known as “Wild Bill,” did face off famously against a man on a Springfield, Missouri, street in July 1865.
Wild Bill Hickok and Davis Tutt had a gambling dispute and Tutt took Wild Bill’s gold pocket watch in lieu of a gambling debt he thought he was owed. Wild Bill, then a former Civil War Union soldier and scout, wanted his watch back and faced off against Tutt in the street with townsfolk watching the gunfight from a safe distance. Wild Bill’s speed, accuracy and courage won the duel and he killed his opponent with his Colt pistol. This was the first recorded quick-draw street duel in history.
Wild Bill Hickok faced a trial and he was subsequently found not guilty of murder. After the trial, he met Col. George Ward Nichols, a fellow Civil War Union veteran and former newspaper reporter, who was then a correspondent for Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. His interview and profile of the victorious “shootist” and frontiersman would do much to create the Wild Bill Hickok legend.
“It even contained a few facts,” Tom Clavin writes in his book, “Wild Bill: The True Story of the American Frontier’s First Gunfighter.”
Mr. Clavin, who also wrote “Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American West,” writes in his author’s note of “Wild Bill” that before the heyday of Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Doc Holiday and other iconic frontier figures, there was arguably the most iconic figure of all: James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok.
You can read the rest of my review via the below link: