Choose Your Weapon: The Duel in California, 1847-1861
This book provides glimpses into a period when prominent and publicly active “gentlemen” found resorting to “the Field of Honor” to be a compelling cultural demand at times. Vignettes vary in length from just a couple of pages to five or six. The historical and social context of each encounter is given weight, and there is an obvious professionalism exhibited by the author as a researcher.
Not the least valuable of this book’s contributions to a reader’s learning is the careful detailing of the political realities and interactions of the period. While the language is objective and sometimes sympathetic or amused, its descriptions of bribery, unscrupulous maneuvers, entrapment, and even unbridled rage are put forward clearly.
Illustrations range from early and surprisingly crisp photography to portraiture–fine windows into an era so recently influential to our modern culture and yet so alien. Aiding this perspective is the writer’s attempt to follow duelists (those who survived) in their later escapades. Unsurprisingly, many of those found violent or alcoholic ends. Reading about the after-effects of formal violence brings this subject into better focus than one would imagine with such brief treatments.
Segments appear to have been produced with a variable intensity of proofreading–but all are smooth reading. I will treasure this on my research shelf.
Craven Street Books