Is This Book Really Necessary?

Originally posted on May 27, 2011

Whenever I choose the subject of a book project, I always ask myself: Is this book really necessary? Does it share new information, present corrections to works already published, or give a different opinion of the subject?

If the answer is no, I believe the project is not worth pursing.

Case in point: A new biography of David Crockett (political opponent of Adam Huntsman, whom I’ve written about) written by Michael Wallis entitled David Crockett: The Lion of the West is now available. I’ve not read it, so this isn’t a critique of the book itself. But I wonder if this one is really necessary? Will it add to our knowledge of the fabled frontiersman based on groundbreaking research or the discovery of new letters written by him? Or is it simply a retelling of what serious Crockett readers already know without adding anything new, because the author simply wanted to write a book about him?

I’m afraid the latter point will be the case with Lion of the West.

For me, the three best Crockett biographies in terms of historic value are: William C. Davis’s Three Roads to the Alamo: The Lives and Fortunes of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Barret Travis; David Crockett in Congress: The Rise and Fall of the Poor Man’s Friend by James R. Boylston and Allen J. Wiener; and James Atkins Shackford’s groundbreaking David Crockett: The Man and the Legend.

Truth be told, unless there’s a cache of heretofore unknown Crockett letters out there or a family diary that tells us more about his personal life, I don’t see the need for yet another Crockett biography that supposedly “uncovers” the “real” man underneath the Disney legend. This “uncovering” has already been done by Davis, Boylston, Wiener, and Shackford. Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but when I buy a book, I expect to learn something that I never knew before. I expect diligent research that presents new information about the subject of that particular book. Perhaps it’s too much to ask.

I’d like to hear from anyone who has read Lion of the West to share their take on Wallis’s interpretation of David Crockett. Is it worth reading? I’m sure I’ll give it a chance and add it to my Crockett bookshelf eventually.

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