book reviews, true crime

Repost: A review of Give A Boy A Gun by Jack Olsen…

And one more as/is reposted book review… this one was published on my original blog in November 2015.

I recently finished the late Jack Olsen’s book, Give A Boy A Gun: The True Story of Law and Disorder in the American West.  This book was originally published in 1985 and has since be reprinted.  I’m pretty sure I bought this book during one of my drunken Amazon book shopping sprees.  I bought another of Olsen’s books on that spree and, having read at least one or two of his books before, knew he was a good true crime writer.  For some reason, I read Give A Boy A Gun before the other book.  It took awhile to finish it and now that I have, it’s time to write a review.

Give A Boy A Gun is the story of Claude Lafayette Dallas, Jr., a drifter of a man who was known for being a hardworking guy who would take on temporary gigs at ranches in western states.  He worked as a cowpuncher and a handyman and was well regarded for his work.  He was also known for illegally trapping and poaching animals.  Dallas was well-known to game wardens, who would bust him for his illegal traps.

Born in Virginia and raised in Michigan and upper Ohio, Dallas had a father who was a big believer in teaching his son how to use a gun.  His motto was “Give a boy a gun and you’re makin’ a man.”  Dallas was always armed and had visions of being a mountain man.  He would often kill animals for fun, even though he didn’t need the meat. 

One snowy day in January 1981, two Idaho game wardens happened to cross Dallas’s path.  He shot and killed them both in front of a witness.  Then, for fifteen months, Dallas was on the run.  He was eventually captured in northern Nevada during a shootout and convicted of voluntary manslaughter.  Dallas was a likable character and managed to get out of a murder rap.  Olsen skillfully and colorfully writes the story in Give A Boy A Gun.

I’m of two minds about this book.  First off, I appreciated Olsen’s writing style.  It’s very vivid and novel-like.  In this particular book, I felt like I was reading the words of a great storyteller and not just a book about people being murdered by a cold blooded killer.  On the other hand, though I appreciated Olsen’s writing ability, I wasn’t that interested in Dallas’s story.  I don’t think it’s so much Olsen’s fault as it is that I just didn’t find Dallas that intriguing.  However, the people of Soda Springs, Idaho, where Dallas committed his crimes, no doubt find this book fascinating. Interestingly enough, I’ve read other books by Jack Olsen that I didn’t think were as vividly written.

As someone who loves reading and enjoys writing, I noticed Olsen’s skill and talent in writing Give A Boy A Gun.  As a true crime fan, I have to admit that I’ve read better books that were more interesting to me, personally.  I would probably rate this book at about three and a half stars. 

Incidentally, Dallas served 22 years of a 30 year sentence.  He was released from prison in February 2005.  This is despite the fact that he escaped in March 1986 and was on the run for almost a year.  As this book was originally published before the escape, I don’t think I read about it… 

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