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Out West

Travels through the American West - Past and Present

Published by Interlink Books
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

About The Book

Many books about the American West leave out the more intriguing details… For example, was Butch Cassidy really killed in a Bolivian shoot-out? It seems that he probably returned, under a false name, to live out his days in the West. In 1935 he even submitted an autobiographical script to Hollywood—only to have it rejected as being “too preposterous to be believable.” He died two years later, penniless. Working for the BBC, British writer Tim Slessor has filmed and traveled “out West” for over forty years; indeed, at one time he quit his job to go and work for “a very happy year” in western Nebraska. In this book he selects a series of beguiling stories that range from the mountain men and their fur trade to the pioneers of the overland trail, from Custer and the disaster at the Little Big Horn to the last stand of the Sioux at Wounded Knee, from the early cow-towns and the railroads to the cattle barons and the emigrant sod-busters. Full of surprises and insights, Out West casts new and entertaining light on the history and personalities of the American West.

About The Author

Tim Slessor is the author of First Overland, the story of the first-entirely-by-land drive from the Channel to Singapore.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Interlink Books (July 15, 2016)
  • Length: 356 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781566560641

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Raves and Reviews

"BBC filmmaker Slessor might seem like an unlikely writer to take on the American West, but his obvious enthusiasm for the region, many visits, and a year living and working in Nebraska should wipe away any concerns. Focused on history, especially the deeply personal history of small towns and the clash of truth and legend (his belief that Butch Cassidy survived and returned to the U.S. from Bolivia makes for an exceptionally convincing, myth-busting chapter), Slessor is funny, smart, and delightfully lively as he shares stories he found while on and off assignment in this legendary region. Each chapter delves into a fresh tale as he follows history's trail from Lewis and Clark to the railroads, the gold rush, and Wounded Knee. Slessor has no grand pronouncements to make about what the frontier or its people mean to America, but he obviously loves the place and can't get enough of it. He teases out plenty of new facets to make any reader happy, and has crafted what can easily be termed an armchair-traveler's favorite kind of escape."

A former BBC contributor's history-cum-travelogue of the American West.Slessor (Lying in State: How Whitehall Denies, Dissembles and Deceives, 2002, etc.) first traveled through the High Plains region on assignment from the BBC in 1961. His visit gave rise to a lifelong love affair with the West, a place the author saw as being the most quintessentially American of all places in the country. Here, Slessor interweaves memories of journeys through and stays in Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, and the Dakotas with a history that begins with the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. That event doubled the size of a fledgling nation by adding much of the land that would later become known as the High Plains and Midwest. The author recounts the stories of Lewis and Clark, who crossed the boundaries of the Louisiana Purchase territory all the w ay to the Pacific Coast, and of the trappers, gold prospectors, young pioneer families, and religious dissidents known as Mormons who sought to make new lives. The westward push, which eventually involved the building of a transcontinental railroad, was not without its challenges: settlers and the U.S. military fought bitter and bloody battles, such as those fought at Little Bighorn and Wounded Knee, against Plains Indians unwilling to give up their territory. Slessor also traces the rise of the great cattle barons, some of whom came from Britain to become self-styled 'Gentlemen of the Prairie.' He concludes with reflections on the exploits of Butch Cassidy, 'the world's favorite outlaw,' and the less glamorous men and women who tamed the often harsh and unforgiving Great Plains into agriculturally productive land. Slessor's historical information is 'distillation of other people's books and articles,' and he offers no new insights into these well-known historical events. Some of his interesting anecdotes reveal his deep affection for the West, but because they do not form a coherent subnarrative, they distract rather than add to the overall narrative. Well-informed but scattered and ultimately dispensable.

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