Cole Younger: Last of the Great Outlaws by Homer Croy
reviewed by Deb Houdek Rule for Civil War St. Louis
Homer Croy is a first-rate storyteller in a very casual, homey sort of way. He writes this book about Cole Younger’s life in such a way that you feel as though you’re sitting around the fire with Homer while he tells the tale. It’s very entertaining reading with many good touches of humor and wry comments throughout.
As history…First of all, he doesn’t footnote in the traditional way but does include notes about each chapter explaining his sources. It’s an informal, rather than scholarly, style. His research was extensive and tended toward finding people who could give him first-hand accounts, or as near to first-hand as possible family stories, along with contemporary newspaper accounts. In this way he hunts down the sources of many of the myths, legends, and rumors surrounding Cole Younger’s life and career. Is he right about every particular and conclusion? I don’t know. I’d say to read this book hand-in-hand with one of the more recent high-quality works to compare versions of events.
Croy is very up-front with his opinions, something I appreciated. The author of such a book is the one who did the research, has a feel for the subject even in areas where hard data may be lacking, and I want to hear their opinion on disputed matters. Some history authors won’t go out on that limb but Homer Croy has no such problem. He usually is clear on what is his opinion and what he has some evidence on, but he also recreates some scenes and conversations for which there could not possibly be any witnesses. So bear in mind there is an element of fictional novelization to the story.
Don’t miss the index–most entertaining index I’ve ever read.