Winner of the 2018 Ohioana Book Award for Nonfiction
The little-known but uniquely American story of the unlikely friendship of two famous figures of the American West—Buffalo Bill Cody and Sitting Bull—told through the prism of their collaboration in Cody's Wild West show in 1885.
“Splendid… Blood Brothers eloquently explores the clash of cultures on the Great Plains that initially united the two legends and how this shared experience contributed to the creation of their ironic political alliance.” —Bobby Bridger, Austin Chronicle
It was in Brooklyn, New York, in 1883 that William F. Cody—known across the land as Buffalo Bill—conceived of his Wild West show, an “equestrian extravaganza” featuring cowboys and Indians. It was a great success, and for four months in 1885 the Lakota chief Sitting Bull appeared in the show. Blood Brothers tells the story of these two iconic figures through their brief but important collaboration, in “a compelling narrative that reads like a novel” (Orange County Register).
“Thoroughly researched, Deanne Stillman’s account of this period in American history is elucidating as well as entertaining” (Booklist), complete with little-told details about the two men whose alliance was eased by none other than Annie Oakley. When Sitting Bull joined the Wild West, the event spawned one of the earliest advertising slogans: “Foes in ’76, Friends in ’85.” Cody paid his performers well, and he treated the Indians no differently from white performers. During this time, the Native American rights movement began to flourish. But with their way of life in tatters, the Lakota and others availed themselves of the chance to perform in the Wild West show. When Cody died in 1917, a large contingent of Native Americans attended his public funeral.
An iconic friendship tale like no other, Blood Brothers is a timeless story of people from different cultures who crossed barriers to engage each other as human beings. Here, Stillman provides “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).
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.
"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)
“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
“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
“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
One of True West’s Best Biographies of the Year
– True West
“The lives of two of the most iconic figures in American history intersect in a sad but fitting setting -- a traveling Wild West show that gave both Buffalo Bill and Sitting Bull second lives after their frontier days had ended. Deanne Stillman authentically recreates the lives and times of the killer of buffalo and the ‘killer of Custer’ who joined forces as popular entertainers.”
– Tom Clavin, coauthor of The Heart of Everything That Is