Buffalo Bill Cody is one of the most famous figures to emerge from the Wild West, and in his later show business career played a major part in creating its image. During his career he worked on wagon trains, with the pony express, as a military and civilian scout, a buffalo hunter, a rancher and most famously as a performer and impresario of shows set in the Wild West.
The book is intended to serve as a travel guide. It is mainly organised chronologically, so can be read as a biography, but also geographically, so some chapters cover quite a long time span. As a result some incidents appear to be presented out of sequence - we move back in time to cover the last days of Sitting Bull for instance, but this is because the previous chapter actually began with material from an earlier date but followed that part of the story to its end.
From a military point of view Cody fought in the American Civil War, although due to his youth only at low rank and for a limited period later in the war. He was more prominent in the Indian Wars, where he was present or near several of the most famous incidents (his later career helps explain why some of incidents became so well known).
More space is dedicated to his time as a scout, and his later show business career. One side effect of his later fame is that Buffalo Bill and others began to embellish or even invent incidents. Barnes has chosen to include both the verifiable and the more entertaining of the less reliable stories, with an examination of the sources for the latter. I agree with this approach, which allows the author to include some fascinating stories that tell us much about how Cody wanted to be seen and how others saw him.
Many of the buildings associated with Buffalo Bill have survived (although several have been moved since his time), so the guide includes several of his houses and ranches.
I can't really comment on the guide aspect of the book as I've never visited the areas covered, but these sections come across convincingly. For the none-visitor there are loads of pictures and contemporary prints, and as a result the book gives a good feel for the physical world that Cody inhabited.
The Codys Come to Iowa
The Move to Kansas
Shipping on the Plains
The Pony Express and Will Cody
Cody in the Civil War
Scouting the Southern Plains
Bill and the Buffalo
A Home at Fort McPherson
The Battle of Summit Springs
Cody and the Great Buffalo Hunts
The Royal Buffalo Hunt of 1872
A Taste of Fame
The Road to Warbonnet
Last Days as a Scout
The Impresario Rancher
North Platte: Home on the Plains
The Birth of the Wild West
On to Omaha
Buffalo Bill's Wild West
Fort Yates and the Rescue of Sitting Bull
Buffalo Bill Goes to Wyoming
Denver and the End of the Trail
Remembering Buffalo Bill
Appendix: Quotations of William F. Cody
Author: Jeff Barnes