The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

The melodies and texts reflect the variants familiar to the author. And personal
biases spice the discussion, as when the author, a performer himself, posits the
freedom and improvisation of the folk song against the "static and unchanging"
nature of the composed art song (p. xi), an assertion that Abernethy's own musi-
cal collaborator Dan Beaty might challenge.
These and other points that arise in the text are but grist for the mill, howev-
er, suggesting several themes that warrant further discussion. Singin' Texas offers
a classic selection of traditional Texas songs, couched in a lively and engaging
commentary that itself becomes part of the process by which we assimilate and
transmit our popular culture. The book belongs on every serious collector's
shelf.
Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin JOHN WHEAT
The Great American Outlaw: A Legacy of Fact and Fiction. By Frank Richard Prassel.
(Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993. Pp. xvi+412. Illustrations,
preface, epilogue, appendix, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN o-80612-
534-9- $29.95.)
This book offers an overview of the outlaw from eleventh-century England to
Idaho's Claude Dallas in 1981. Prassel presents the major themes of outlawry as
they originated and developed from the Old World to the New, and their trans-
formation on the American frontier.
In each of fifteen chapters, Prassel studies one aspect of the generic term "out-
law": bandit, pirate, highwayman, desperado, rebel, etc. He does not always dis-
tinguish clearly between categories; he discusses the James and Younger
brothers in a chapter entitled "The Hoodlum," but Jesse James appears again in
"The Badman." Nor does Prassel provide definitions of the various components
of the generic term "outlaw."
By utilizing much archival material, government documents, and primary and
secondary sources, Prassel presents a general study of well-known outlaws and
discusses how legend and folklore transformed them from real individuals into
mythic figures.
Almost universally, the myth created about a given outlaw contains but a few
grains of truth. There may have been an individual, or several individuals fused
into one, we know today as Robin Hood, but the historical record is nearly
nonexistent. In nineteenth-century America, newspaper editor John Edwards
perpetuated the myth of the James brothers robbing the rich to give to the poor.
The difference between reality and public perception is vast. Even some of the
best-known lawmen, such as Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp, and Pat Garrett, were
fugitives from the law on occasion, but the public generally will ignore unpleas-
ant truths to perpetuate a mythical image.
In attempting such a large study Prassel can be forgiven for minor errors, or
for not considering any individual in depth. He provides a succinct overview of
the life of Billy the Kid but suggests, with no explanation, that the generally ac-
cepted photograph of the Kid may be someone else entirely. Elsewhere Prassel

360

October

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101216/. Accessed December 19, 2014.