Monday, September 26, 2022

Review of "Starr Tracks: Belle and Pearl Starr," by Phillip W. Steele

 Review of

Starr Tracks: Belle and Pearl Starr, by Phillip W. Steele ISBN 0882897233

Five out of five stars

An injection of reality into the legends

 With a countless number of western books and many different movies and television shows with a western theme, many of the characters have become mythologized. Many of the stories of their exploits are more legend than fact. This alteration of history covers all types of characters, from the heroes to the outlaws to the women. One of the most famous is Belle Starr, sometimes called the “Bandit Queen.”

 Like so many of the outlaws of legend such as the James Gang, the origin of the story of the woman known as Belle Starr begins in Missouri during the Civil War. It was a state sharply divided between Union and Confederate sympathies and Starr was on the side of the Confederacy. When the war was over, many of the people that supported the Confederacy moved to the outlaw side of society.

 This book is based on the history of the family of Belle Starr. The sources were family records and interviews with the descendants of Belle Starr. It was interesting to learn that she in fact went by several names and had multiple husbands. At least it appears that way. There is also doubt as to who was in fact the biological father of her children.

 As is most often the case, the verifiable track of history is much less dynamic than the legend. Yet, what is revealed is a woman that provided some basis for the stories of her outlaw actions. For example, she wore very fancy dresses, rode sidesaddle and carried a pair of pistols around her waist. This book is based on facts, and is interesting because it is based on truth, not fiction.

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