And now for something completely different:
It’s the Shameless Self-Promotion hour on the Walter Becker Network, and I (Matt) would like to take a moment and encourage you to buy my book:
One of the reasons it's been a little quiet around here for the last little bit is that I've been busy getting ready for the May 1st release of my first book, a tome entitled Texas Jack: America's First Cowboy Star.
Some of you might remember from some of my writings about Walter and my love for his music that I was first exposed to Steely Dan on many trips my family took "out West" in the springs and summers of my youth. So in a weird way, the sound that immediately takes me to the long drive from Moab, Utah up into the Manti-La Sal National Forest and to Warner Lake Campground is Aja on cassette. Medicine Wheel in Wyoming sounds like Black Friday.
Well, in much the same way that Steely Dan was a ubiquitous part of my childhood that loomed ever larger as I became an adult, the West has never really left this southern boy alone. At some point, I started researching the history of the reality behind the Wild West myth, and came upon an interesting anecdote: in 1874 many Americans in the eastern part of the United States could go down to their local theatre, pay a quarter, and see live on stage three giants of the American West in reality and legend—Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild Bill Hickok, and Texas Jack Omohundro. Now, if you're like most people you're well aware of Wild Bill, the deadliest gunslinger of them all and arguably the most famous lawman in American history. You likely remember Buffalo Bill as well, the famous scout and buffalo hunter turned showman, and the driving force behind our mythologized version of the west in literature, art, and film.
So if this Texas Jack guy was worth equal billing with those luminaries, why had I never heard of him? I set myself to answering that question. The short answer is that Texas Jack was the first cowboy in American history to achieve notoriety, standing at the foundation of all of our cowboy tropes. The long answer took me three or four years to put into words and takes about 368 pages to get right.
To tie it back in and make it (loosely) relevant, without Texas Jack Omohundro Steely Dan would have never sung about “a natural man / wearing a white Stetson hat.”
Anyway, I'm incredibly proud of the book and hope that those of you with a passing interest in pop culture, cowboys, westerns, American history, or supporting me as a writer give it a shot and pick it up.
Texas Jack: America's First Cowboy Star is available in both hardcover and e-reader formats at most of the usual suspects where book buying is concerned. For those of you without a local independent bookstore, check:
If you'd rather find a copy of Texas Jack locally, the first edition hardcover can be purchased, while supporting your favorite local bookstore, from:
While awaiting the book's release, I decided to put a picture that my wife took of me proudly holding my first copy of my first book on Reddit. Due to the wild machinations of fate, the post somehow took off, with 54K+ upvotes and more than a thousand comments. That led a whole slew of people to my site (www.dimelibrary.com), and according to what I can gather from the web, to purchasing the book. For a little bit that day, my book was ranked in the Top 100 for several Amazon categories, and it isn't even out yet! Given some time and the just right circumstances...
A quick glance through the comments shows a lot of support from the larger Steely Dan community, which really means a lot to me. Thanks guys!
If you need a little more convincing before you give the book a shot, check out author Julia Bricklin's review, which reads in part:
This groundbreaking work by Matthew Kerns brings to light a lesser-known but vitally important figure in any history of American pop culture...Kerns meticulously reconstructs the fascinating—if sadly shortened—life of Texas Jack Omohundro. What emerges is the story of the man who actually was the driving force behind Buffalo Bill's decision to go into show business, and perhaps was too authentic to shine as brightly as Cody through the ages. Until now.
Another nice review of my Texas Jack book, this one from Wild West Magazine. Wild West, after reviewing my book, also asked me to consider writing a feature article on Texas Jack for an issue coming out next year. Hopefully, that gets eyes on the book, which is always the goal.
https://www.leadvilleherald.com/free_content/article_c2b7bc0e-e4b1-11eb-a3bf-231526233657.html A write up about my book in the Leadville Herald. Texas Jack died in Leadville and is buried there, and the Herald was the newspaper that reported his death at the time. So strange to think that the newspaper that wrote about his death is now covering my book on his life over 140 years later.
https://www.amazon.com/review/R18U4QTLG6UI1P/ref=cm_cr_srp_d_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1493055410 A 5 star review for Texas Jack from Robert Aquinas McNally, author of The Modoc War.
https://truewestmagazine.com/article/riding-the-rails-into-history/ TwoDot Press continues its impressive run of frontier biographies with Texas Jack: America’s First Cowboy Star ($26.95). Author Matthew Kerns, a Tennessee-based historian and digital archivist, carefully explores the life of John “Texas Jack” Omohundro who rose to national prominence as a member of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West shows after befriending Cody and Wild Bill Hickok. Later, Texas Jack was the subject of a series of Ned Buntline dime novels. Before his stardom, however, Texas Jack was a Confederate scout and spy and later a trail boss who led cattle drives on the Chisolm and Goodnight-Loving trails throughout the West. Texas Jack is a complete and thoughtful biography of a recognizable, but little-understood figure of the American West.
—Erik J. Wright, assistant editor of the Tombstone Epitaph
Wonder what his final tally on scalps was. What an interesting character and time. Enjoyed the book. Thank you Matt!
Did an interview about the book with The Way Podcast. https://www.podcasttheway.com/l/texas-jack/
Good luck with the book sales!
great interview, Matt!
I did an interview with Bad Things In History about Texas Jack, my book, and how the world forgot America's first cowboy star.
"And ANOTHER thing!" (as our boy would say):
Matt you've got so many great photos on your sites. All of them are fascinating and full of compelling characters...but even just in the corporeal plane, your Main Man wins the charisma contest by a dusty mile. I mean, I *can't* be the only person who's noticed that TJ was one fucking handsome dude!
The collection in "The Cowboy: Or The Words Of Texas Jack" is just one good exemplar of the point.
oh yeah, stay, wait -- his bride! The Peerless Morlacchi, the world's most famous ballerina..!?! . Bennifer, Bradgalina...they're Mama June and Sugar Bear compared to these two. Your material makes clear the sensation the Buckskin and Satin pair caused in the entertainment world of the day. I wonder what they'd be made into now. An E-channel reality show? 6-story Calvin Klein billboards in Times Square? Whatever. But...boy.
AUDIOBOOK! ...and not just 'cause it's the only way I get to "read" anything these days...but because Matt has one of the absolutely most wonderful narration voices you'll ever hear. (Matt -- would you mind posting a link to that "...forced marriage at dawn" piece? Hilarious in its own right...but also a great sample. If Ken Burns had a braincell in his pointy little head he'd re-cut his Civil War with you as narrator). Having lived a spell in Nashville I can say that many of those accents are nails on a chalkboard to me....but at the same time, there's a subset which I always thought was among the most wonderful and interesting sounding humanoid noises in all the land (sure as shit beats the "FIE-ERplace: Fieeer! Fieeer!" I endured during another time in the midwest.) Matt's got one of those.
If we had more members here I'd argue for a Zoom reading (or three). Matt, if your publisher had half of the half of Ken Burns' brain-cell, they'd already have some of those planned. I know Matt has a pretty substantial group of followers through his TJ facebook and his https://www.dimelibrary.com site (where you can enjoy lots'o'matt via his podcasts and videos)...and also apparently has enough followers on Reddit to drive his Release Day announcement to its front page. The trick would be to drive all those eyeballs at once to a live event. Marketing mavens out there --where are ye?
Copy pre ordered Matt..available over here on 1st July.
In the meantime Chapeau bas.! and congratulations.
AUDIOBOOK! AUDIOBOOK! AUDIOBOOK!
Oh yeah baby!!