Days of 76
Photo of the 2007 Days of ’76 parade in Deadwood by Brooke~n~Todd used under a Creative Commons license.

Pete Dexter, Deadwood (Vintage, 2005).
In 1876, Wild Bill Hickok and Charley Utter rode into Deadwood, a little frontier town in the Black Hills of what was then the Dakota Territories, now South Dakota. Dexter’s 1986 novel is a tale of those next few months and of Hickok, Utter, Calamity Jane, and a town-full of other colorful characters. I wouldn’t call this a Western, since there’s more emphasis on character and offbeat humor, but maybe it’s just that Dexter is a better writer than most. Action is not exactly lacking; for example, it’s hardly a spoiler to mention that Hickok meets an untimely demise. So think of it as a literary Western. (N.B. — Some will tell you that this novel was the source of HBO’s miniseries, but others will tell you it isn’t true. Dexter’s book was credited as a source for the 1995 movie, Wild Bill.)

Steve Volk explains why Dexter is a legend in Philadelphia. The University of South Dakota takes credit for him too. The best discussion I can find of the book on the interwebs are these two posts by Whiskey Prajer, parts one and two. Time reviewed it in 1986. George Pelecanos recommends it. And Cindi Wafstet and Caitlin blog about Calamity Jane.

Buy it at Amazon.com.

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