Monumental Lies: Early Nevada Folklore of the Wild West (Shepperson Series in Nevada History) (Paperback)

Monumental Lies: Early Nevada Folklore of the Wild West (Shepperson Series in Nevada History) By Ronald M. James Cover Image
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A playful embrace of tall tales and exaggeration, Monumental Lies explores the evolution of folklore in the Wild West.

Monumental Lies: Early Nevada Folklore of the Wild West invites readers to explore how legends and traditions emerged during the first decades following the “Rush to Washoe,” which transformed the Nevada Territory after in 1859. During this Wild West period, there was widespread celebration of deceit, manifesting in tall tales, burlesque lies, practical jokes, and journalistic hoaxes. Humor was central, and practitioners easily found themselves scorned if they failed to be adequately funny.

The tens of thousands of people who came to the West, attracted by gold and silver mining, brought distinct cultural legacies. The interaction of diverse perspectives, even while new stories and traditions coalesced, was a complex process. Author Ronald M. James addresses how the fluidity of the region affected new expressions of folklore as they took root.

The wildly popular Mark Twain is often a go-to source for collections of early tall tales of this region, but his interaction with local traditions was specific and narrow. More importantly, William Wright—publishing as Dan De Quille—arose as a key collector of legends, a counterpart of early European folklorists. With a bedrock understanding of what unfolded in the nineteenth century, James considers how these early stories helped shaped the culture of the Wild West.


About the Author

Ronald M. James was the long-serving Nevada state historic preservation officer, administering the agency for three decades and retiring in 2012. He was also appointed to the advisory board for the National Park System and served as chair of the National Historic Landmarks Committee. He is the author of The Roar and the Silence: A History of Virginia City and the Comstock Lode and several other books about the American West. In 2014, James was inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame.


Praise For…

“This is a well-researched book and a significant contribution to the study of the confluence of historical fact and folklore in Nevada’s early days. It’s a story about stories, well told by a historian who is also an accomplished storyteller. He knows where the bodies are buried—and ghost linger. James has spent most of his life immersed in the history of the Silver State, and he is uniquely qualified to tell the tales of its early folklore.”
Frank X. Mullen, investigative reporter, historian, and author of The Donner Party Chronicles: A Day-by-Day Account of a Doomed Wagon Train, 1846-47

“James moves atop the western folklore scene with Monumental Lies. His provocative volume provides an emulative framework for the study of folklore in other subregions of the American West. His superb account is extraordinarily revealing and clearly written. A helpful read for general readers and scholars alike ”
Richard Etulain, author of Thunder in the West: The Life and Legends of Billy the Kid

“James provides the first comprehensive account of Nevada folklore. He discusses where the tales came from, their context, significance, and lifecycles. At the same time, he reveals the state’s traditions, enhancing our understanding of Nevada history and cultural traditions in the American West. It is a fascinating and compelling story.
Michael J. Makley, author of Imposing Order without Law: American Expansion to the Eastern Sierra, 1850-1865 

Product Details
ISBN: 9781647791162
ISBN-10: 1647791162
Publisher: University of Nevada Press
Publication Date: September 19th, 2023
Pages: 252
Language: English
Series: Shepperson Series in Nevada History