Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press

Son of the Old West

The Odyssey of Charlie Siringo: Cowboy, Detective, Writer of the Wild Frontier

by Nathan Ward

An epic narrative of the Old West through the vivid, outsized life of cowboy, detective, and chronicler Charlie Siringo

  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 368
  • Publication Date September 05, 2023
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6208-3
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $28.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Publication Date September 05, 2023
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6209-0
  • US List Price $28.00

As Nathan Ward reveals in his evocative new book, no figure in the Old West lived or shaped its history more fully than Charlie Siringo. Born in Matagorda, Texas in 1855, Charlie went on his first cattle drive at age 11 and spent two decades living his boyhood dream as a cowboy. As the dangerous, lucrative “beeves” business boomed, Siringo drove longhorn steers north to the burgeoning Midwest Plains states’ cattle and railroad towns, inevitably crossing paths with such legendary figures as Billy the Kid, Bat Masterson, and Shanghai Pierce. In his early thirties he joined the Pinkerton Detective Agency’s Denver office, using a variety of aliases to investigate violent labor disputes and infiltrate outlaw gangs such as Butch Cassidy’s train robbing Wild Bunch. As brave as he was clever, he was often saved by his cowboy training as he traveled to places the law had not yet reached.

Siringo’s bestselling, landmark 1885 autobiography, A Texas Cowboy, helped make the lowly cowboy a heroic symbol of the American West. His later memoir, A Cowboy Detective, influenced early hard-boiled crime novelists for whom the detective story was really the cowboy story in an urban setting. Sadly sued into debt by the Pinkertons determined to prevent their sources and methods from being revealed, Siringo eventually sold his beloved New Mexico ranch and moved to Los Angeles, where he advised Hollywood filmmakers and especially actor William S. Hart on their early 1920s Westerns, watching the frontier history he had known first-hand turned into romantic legend on the screen.

In old age, Charlie Siringo was called “Ulysses of the Wild West” for the long journey he took across the western frontier. Son of the Old West brings him and his legendary world vividly to life.

Praise for Son of the Old West:

“In Son of the Old West, writer Nathan Ward tracks Siringo from Texas to Idaho and seemingly everywhere in between while relating his encounters with an array of characters, some of them among the most famous of his day. As Mr. Ward explains, his book is as much a chronicle of the Old West as it is the study of a colorful, and ubiquitous, frontiersman . . . Mr. Ward—like Siringo himself—spins a good yarn, and his book will surely please Old West enthusiasts, whose interest in the characters of this period remains evergreen.”—Andrew R. Graybill, Wall Street Journal

“[A] handsome telling.”—Dan Piepenbring, Harper’s Magazine

“Ward tells the tale of a strange and distinctly American life, one that wove through every facet of the Old West and cowboy culture; Siringo is in significant ways responsible for the birth of the mythical American Cowboy, the unkempt and sometimes unhinged hero of the Wild West.”—Anna Heyard, New York Times Book Review

“A vibrant portrait of Charles Siringo, one of the most ubiquitous characters in the history of the American West . . . Ward’s sharp eye for detail and breezy prose style make this a riveting look at the mythology of the Old West.”Publishers Weekly

“The life of a Texas cowboy who ranged the wild frontier paints a broader picture of bygone times in the American West . . . Lively and detailed . . . Illustrations, vintage photos, and maps throughout the text add atmosphere and context to this stirring, multivaried life . . . A well-rendered cowboy tale that fleshes out a larger history of the Old West.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Dozens of photos and other images bring the text beautifully to life. Perfect for biography, history, and western fans.”Booklist

“Nathan Ward’s chronicle is a twisting storm of horseback odyssey, snake-bitten fortunetelling, class warfare, and deep-cover pursuit of legendary outlaws. The eye of this hurricane is cowboy detective Charlie Siringo—brave, stubborn, heartbroken and hopeful—who races through perils and adventure like a man who knows we’re all watching, all the way to his literal Hollywood ending. Son of the Old West is full-gallop history, and I loved every page.”—Leif Enger, author of Peace Like a River and So Brave, Young, and Handsome

“A veritable real-life Jack Crabb, Charlie Siringo claimed to have seen and done it all in the Old West. Even better, a lot of what Charlie claimed was actually true! In this engrossing book, Nathan Ward expertly guides us along Charlie’s meandering trail, from Texas childhood to author of his own legend. At the same time, we are treated to a rich and fascinating portrait of the American West at its wildest.”—Mark Lee Gardner, Spur Award-winning author of To Hell on a Fast Horse: Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, and the Epic Chase to Justice in the Old West 

“Nathan Ward skillfully brings to life the enigmatic Charlie Siringo, a gypsy-footed cowboy, manhunter, and writer, who helped merge the Wild West of reality with the Wild West of myth.”—Michael Wallis, author of Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride

Praise for The Lost Detective:

“As a devoted Hammett aficionado, I’ve read most books about him and published his daughter’s memoir, but learned so much in this captivating examination of the great author’s life that I feel compelled to reread his complete works with far deeper understanding than ever before.”―Otto Penzler, Editor, The Best American Noir of the Century

The Lost Detective is full of stimulating insight into how the novice writer shaped real-life experience into vital fiction.”―The Wall Street Journal

“Ward’s focus on the origins of Hammett’s writing style and his connecting the events of the author’s background to the fiction are the highlights of this brief, accessible biography . . . Highly recommended.”―Library Journal

“As brisk and conversational as a magazine feature, The Lost Detective invites readers not just to explore Hammett’s early years in more detail and consider how those formative experiences helped shape his writing career, but also . . . to look at how the Hammett persona was created. And as we Hammett fans know, there are few personas, few writers in 20th-century literature period, more interesting to read about.”―Washington Post

“A gritty portrait of the 20th century’s great pulp poet Dashiell Hammett, who turned his days gumshoeing for the Pinkerton Detective Agency into bawdy and muscular American classics.”―O, the Oprah Magazine

“Highly entertaining . . . Captures what it feels like to read Hammett’s early work and, as Ward says, ‘watch a sickly ex-detective in his late twenties, with an eighth-grade education, gradually, improbably, teach himself to write.’”―Boston Globe

“Nathan Ward shows that Hammett’s innovative style did not, as it may have seemed, spring fully formed like Athena from the head of Zeus . . . With deft investigative work, Ward shows how much of Hammett’s fiction owed to Pinkerton reports . . . A lively, witty account of how Hammett came to be Hammett—a portrait of the artist, if you will, as a cynical man.”―Chicago Tribune

“Nathan Ward’s book shines a detective’s flashlight on Hammett’s early development.”―Buffalo News

“Hardboiled crime novel fans will find Ward’s research into what it meant to Hammett to be an actual detective before he wrote about them quite fascinating.”―Shelf Awareness

“With its sharp focus and strong hook, The Lost Detective is a fascinating read [that] casts Hammett in a new and intriguing light.”―Herald Scotland

“Beguiling . . . The Lost Detective is a dazzling display of literary detection.”―Sydney Morning Herald