Thursday, December 13, 2007

East of the Border -- Johnny D. Boggs

I guess you'd have to call this an "eastern" since most of it's set in places like New York City and Philadelphia, but since the main characters are Texas Jack Omohundro, Wild Bill Hickok, and Buffalo Bill Cody, let's call it a western.

Once upon a time, Cody, Hickok, and Omohundro trod the boards in a couple of dramas called Scouts of the Plain and King of the Border Men. Their acting ability was negligible, but people who packed the Eastern theaters didn't care. They'd come to see three authentic western heroes shoot Indians. And maybe to see Giuseppina Morlacchi dance.

Boggs' book is about that season of play-acting. It's divided into three "acts," with each of the principals having an opportunity to narrate in the first person. Since there's not really much of a plot (more like a succession of incidents), it's a good thing the narrators are so engaging. And so funny. They seldom remember their lines, which were awful in the first place, and so they just talk to each other or even to members of the audience. If a "dead" Indian jumps up because Hickok fired a blank too close to his leg, Hickok or one of the others just "kills" him again. Audiences love it. You probably will, too.

Omohundro is the serious one. He likes being on stage, and he likes acting. He marries Guiseppina early on, and he's incensed when Hickok tries making out with her on stage.

Hickok hates the whole thing and does all he can to get Cody to fire him. He does most of the shows drunk, and he can never quite get past the idea that the audience is laughing at him, not with him. Mainly because he's not laughing at all.

Cody gets the show-biz bug. He likes the money, and he likes the adulation. He has a tough family life, but he never messes around with other women. At least not when his wife is traveling with him.

This is quite different from the usual powder-burner, and I believe Johnny D. Boggs was just voted by the readers of True West as the best living western writer. That's a pretty good recommendation in itself. Check it out.

1 comment:

  1. Gerard9:04 AM

    "Omohundro is the serious one. He likes being on stage, and he likes acting. He marries Guiseppina early on, and he's incensed when Hickok tries making out with her on stage."

    I almost spat my coffee all over the keyboard. Good paragraph.

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