University of Oklahoma Press is set to launch a new book on the legendary Tom Horn, a complex Old West figure who served as both lawman and hired enforcer during his life. Tom Horn in Life and Legend (2014), written by Larry D. Ball, is set to be published on April 22.

51imyIIL5AL._SL500_AA300_[1]Image – University of Oklahoma Press

Thomas “Tom” Horn, Jr. (1860-1903) was born in Missouri and left at home at age 16 to become a scout for the U.S. Calvary in the Southwest. Serving as a deputy-sheriff in Arizona, his skills as a tracker would gain him employment with the Pinkerton Detective Agency by 1890. Horn moved to Denver, Colorado, to work for the agency. 

Horn hired out to wealthy ranchers during the infamous 1892 Johnson County War, working as a range detective for cattle barons against individual setters and rustlers in the Powder River region of Wyoming. He would resign from the Pinkerton agency – some say under pressure – in 1894. Horn has often been classified as a “gun for hire” and associated with a number of killings while in the employ of ranchers.

It would be during such work in Wyoming that Horn would be charged in July 1901 with the murder of 14 year-old Willie Nickell, the son of a sheepherder. Following an imprecise and drunk confession given to a US Marshal, Horn was arrested in 1902 and brought to trial in October of that year. Horn was found guilty and executed by hanging in Cheyenne, Wyoming, on November 20, 1903, just one day shy of his 43rd birthday – he was buried in Boulder, Colorado. Horn’s guilt continues to be debated.

In addition to his examination of Horn’s personal history, Ball also looks at fictional portrayals of Horn, including the cinematic. Among such film depictions is Tom Horn (1980), which served as Steve McQueen’s second-last performance before his death in November 1980. Here is the trailer for that film:

Further information about Tom Horn in Life and Legend (2014) can be found at the link Tom Horn.

(Copyright – Chad Beharriell)

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