Monday, September 03, 2012


The Story of the Outlaw

The Story of the Outlaw: A Study of the Western Desperado by Emerson Hough, writer of western stories and historical novels, should ideally be my entry for Friday's Forgotten Books over at Patti Abbott's blog. It isn't because I can't wait to feature it now, in slide-show format which tells its own story. It would take me at least a week, or more, to read the 232-page ebook from Project Gutenberg and probably as much time to write about it. A review of a western historical work requires some understanding of the period and the events around it as opposed to a review of a western novel. In spite of its historical backdrop, I'd be more comfortable writing about a novel I read.

The book offers "historical narratives of famous outlaws, the stories of noted border wars, vigilante movements and armed conflicts on the frontier." The copyright to this fascinating chroncile of the western outlaw, in his various avatars, is held by two entities, the Curtis Publishing Company, 1905, and Emerson Hough and the Outing Publishing Company, New York, 1907. I'm not sure what that means.

"The stories of modern train-robbing bandits and outlaw gangs are taken partly from personal narratives, partly from judicial records, and partly from works frequently more sensational than accurate, and requiring much sifting and verifying in detail. Naturally, very many volumes of Western history and adventure have been consulted," Emerson Hough writes in his preface to The Story of the Outlaw.

"Much of this labor has been one of love for the days and places concerned, which exist no longer as they once did. The total result, it is hoped, will aid in telling at least a portion of the story of the vivid and significant life of the West, and of that frontier whose van, if ever marked by human lawlessness, has, none the less, ever been led by the banner of human liberty," he adds. 

The book is divided into following twenty-two chapters:

01. The Desperado
02. The Imitation Desperado
03. The Land of The Desperado
04. The Early Outlaw
05. The Vigilantes Of California
06. The Outlaw of the Mountains
07. Henry Plummer
08. Boone Helm
09. Death Scenes of Desperadoes
10. Joseph A. Slade
11. The Desperado of the Plains
12. Wild Bill Hickok
13. Frontier Wars
14. The Lincoln County War
15. The Stevens County War
16. Biographies of Bad Men
17. The Fight of Buckshot Roberts
18. The Man Hunt
19. Bad Men of Texas
20. Modern Bad Men
21. Bad Men of the Indian Nations
22. Desperadoes of the Cities

From the dust jacket of The Man Next Door, 1917.
© University of Iowa Libraries

If you're an expert on Western history and frontier life, as Ron Scheer of California is, then you'll know what each of these chapters is about. Ron has covered Emerson Hough's work quite extensively at his blog Buddies in the Saddle. Here are the links to his posts on the American historian and his books, in order of publication:

1. Emerson Hough, The Story of the Cowboy (1897), October 11, 2010
2. Emerson Hough, again, October 14, 2010
3. Emerson Hough, Heart’s Desire (1905), October 19, 2010

Now then, the slide-show I promised earlier...

Plummer's Men

The Scene of Many Little Wars

Types of Border Barricades

The Scene of Many Hangings

Sheriff Pat F. Garrett who killed
Billy the Kid

Billy the Kid shoots Deputy Sheriff
Bob Ollinger

How the rustler worked

Texas rancher John Chisum

Billy the Kid

The Old Chisum Ranch

Border Fortress

Western Man Hunt

If you enjoyed the images, then you might also want to read the ebook at Project Gutenberg or ManyBooks. Click on the links.


  1. oooooooh, gotta pick this up from Gutenberg. Thanks for the heads up.

    1. Charles, you're most welcome. Emerson Hough presents various aspects of the western outlaw and the book is filled with fascinating stories of desperadoes.

  2. Thanks for all the data and links Prashant - a real mine of information.


    1. Anytime, Sergio, though a proper review of Hough's work would have been the right thing to do. He has written quite a few books on the wild west that I hope to read soon.

  3. Billy the Kid has always been, to me, the most disappointing looking little swine. But that's just my personal opinion, you understand. :)

    I mean, look at him.

    Loved all the old pix and cowboy info,Prashant. I'm such a big cowboy fan and western lore fan from way back. You would like my WILD WILD WEST Pinterest board, for sure. Go take a look, see what you think.

    Just click on my 'Follow Me on Pinterest' button at the very bottom of the blog. Then when the various boards show up - go to the WILD WILD WEST ONE. It will give you a smile.

    1. Yvette, thanks for all the appreciation. I find everything about the Wild West fascinating. Billy the Kid probably wasn't the only one who looked like that! I'm sure Jesse James and the other Kids and Outlaws looked just as ordinary in spite of their daring exploits. Books, comics and films have glamourised these western characters in much the same way that real-life characters are glamourised elsewhere. India has its share of such characters too, idealised and romanticised. I'll certainly go through your Wild West One Pinterest board and I'm sure I'm going to like it too.