The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 87, July 1983 - April, 1984

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

ern distinctiveness. More important, he has helped us understand
more clearly than ever before, be it for better or worse, an essential
aspect of the South's legacy, and hence of the country's legacy too.
University of Georgia PHINIZY SPALDING
Belle Starr and Her Times: The Literature, the Facts, and the Leg-
ends. By Glenn Shirley. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press,
1982. Pp. xi+324. Preface, acknowledgments, illustrations, notes,
bibliography, index. $19.95.)
"The ghost of Belle Starr still rides the Indian Territory" (p. 15).
These words appeared in the St. Louis Republican in 191o, twenty-one
years after Belle was slain, and remain applicable today. Among the
women of America's last frontier, only Martha ("Calamity Jane") Ca-
nary ever attained the degree of notoriety afforded "Bella Starr, the
Bandit Queen" (p. 6). Following her assassination Belle was portrayed
in dime novels, pamphlets, songs, newspaper and magazine articles,
movies and television shows; these accounts were replete with inaccura-
cies, myths, and distortions, which have been perpetuated in serious
western histories and latter-day biographies. Even Glenn Shirley him-
self, in his 1960 paperback, Outlaw Queen: The Fantastic True Story
of Belle Starr, accepted and thereby passed on several of the Belle Starr
fictions.
Now Shirley, who has established himself through numerous reliable
volumes as the authority nonpareil on the outlaws and peace officers of
Indian Territory, has tackled the formidable task of pinpointing the
facts about Belle's life and comparing them with the mass of mythologi-
cal literature. Every conceivable document and contemporary account
of her has been examined, and it is safe to state that Belle Starr and
Her Times will stand as the definitive biography of the "Female Jesse
James."
The major drawback of the book is the excessive number of long
quotes in the text, which provide a rich collection of primary sources,
but at the price of distracting interruptions in Shirley's customarily
smooth narrative flow. A map of Belle Starr territory would have been
helpful, but the thirty-three photographs are excellent: especially re-
vealing is the contrast between the pretty Myra Maybelle Shirley at
eighteen years of age (p. 74) and the hard-faced Belle Starr twenty years
later (pp. 196 and 197).
Belle is revealed to have been a complex woman. She tended sick

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 87, July 1983 - April, 1984. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117150/. Accessed July 7, 2015.