The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 82, July 1978 - April, 1979

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

The Flamboyant Mr. Colt and His Deadly Six-Shooter. By Bern Keat-
ing. (New York: Doubleday, 1978. Pp. 233. Index. $9.95.)
Bern Keating's The Flamboyant Mr. Colt and His Deadly Six-Shooter
is a popular and uncritical biography of Samuel Colt, the renowned in-
ventor of the Colt revolver.
The story of Colt's adventures as an inventor and promoter is an in-
teresting one and makes good reading. Keating makes no serious at-
tempt to separate fact from legend but this does not interfere with the
pleasures to be derived from reading about a rather remarkable rogue.
Colt seems to have been as much a mountebank as an inventor; and
Keating finds Colt the mountebank perhaps more interesting than Colt
the inventor. The result is an amusing light treatment of Samuel Colt's
life. In short this is an anecdotal biography which succeeds in providing
an evening or two of entertaining reading.
The book has some important weaknesses if it is to be considered a
true, critical biography. Keating obviously had access to the Colt papers
and he seems to have accepted Colt's side of most incidents without
question. Neither footnotes nor bibliography are included to provide
insight into other sources which might have been consulted. Keating
repeats the Colt revolver's story of the young seaman carving a wooden
model inspired by ship parts, and even dispenses with this yarn in a
very few pages. As for the development of the weapon, all we really
learn is that the gunsmith hired for this purpose by Colt constantly
threatened to quit unless his salary-usually in arrears-was forthcom-
ing. Colt went on to develop underwater mines and techniques for mass
producing precision machinery. Keating makes no effort to plumb the
mind of Colt to find the origins of these ideas or how they developed.
Many aspects of Colt's career deserve closer examination. Colt's success
can hardly be attributed to his glib tongue alone. Nonetheless, that is
the impression this book gives.
It would be nice to see a scholarly biography of the versatile Mr.
Colt. When it is written it probably will have a much smaller reader-
ship than this volume. Numerous narrowly focused books have been
written about Colt and his guns by firearm specialists but these works
have not been particularly effective in placing the Colt story in its his-
torical perspective. Keating's effort will deservedly appeal to a broad
readership and may perhaps inspire some Ph.D. candidate to undertake
the critical biography which needs to be written.


Montana State University


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 82, July 1978 - April, 1979. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed November 1, 2014.