Gunfight at Mussel Slough: Evolution of a Western Myth (California Legacy Book)

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9781890771829: Gunfight at Mussel Slough: Evolution of a Western Myth (California Legacy Book)
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How history becomes mythology

''On May 11, 1880, at Henry Brewer's homestead in the southern San Joaquin Valley district of Mussel Slough, seven men lost their lives during one of the deadliest shootouts in the history of the American West.''

With this statement of fact begins Terry Beers' examination of how history--complex, incomplete, and often contradictory--becomes mythology, written and rewritten until its edges are polished into the ''extraordinarily powerful images that preserve our most cherished values, those which we believe--or want to believe-shape our culture.''

Gunfight at Mussel Slough collects excerpts from five novels--among them Frank Norris' masterpiece The Octopus--and places them alongside historical documents including poems, letters, photographs, maps, flyers, songs, editorials, and political cartoons, each selection recording, analyzing, and interpreting a single event in ways that ultimately change how history will be remembered.

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About the Author:

Terry Beers teaches writing and literature at Santa Clara University, where he is a professor in the English department and director of the California Legacy Project. He also serves as the general editor of the California Legacy series of books, co-published by Santa Clara University and Heyday, and he is the host of the ''Your California Legacy'' radio anthology on KAZU public radio. He lives in northern Monterey County, where he trains sled dogs.

Review:

''A fascinating and illuminating exercise....Gunfight at Mussel Slough is Beers's sturdy effort to rescue history from the mythmakers. At that self-appointed task he is wholly successful. And yet he takes nothing away from the pain and pathos of the events he evokes in such telling detail. His book can be understood as nothing less than the re-invention and the re-imaging of the Western myth.'' --Los Angeles Times Book Review

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