Lurking behind a dumb, misleading title is a good book. (This is not some harum scarum melodrama by a dime novel Dickens.)
True, persnickety readers will prefer a chronological arrangement of chapters instead of the author hopping back and forth between subjects like Kit Carson, the Navajos and the Army of the West. But, even with its flaws, this is the most readable overview of Western history since Bernard DeVoto’s classic 1846: The Year of Decision. Sides, whose easygoing style makes for great readability, covers Manifest Destiny, the push westward of America from the Mexican War to the Civil War. He ties things together by using Kit Carson as our agent of change. Most nonfiction books advertising that they will “read like a novel” do so with forked tongues; they end up reading like the yellow pages. But this is the real McCoy; an accurate, narrative history that reads like a good historical novel.
—Richard H. Dillon