Frontier Gentleman was a high-class radio Western about a London Times reporter sending home dispatches from the American Frontier… frequently about people being dispatched.
In this episode, a colorful lady named Calamity Jane introduces the legendary Wild Bill Hickok to the intrepid reporter J.B. Kendall, played by John Dehner. For anyone familiar with Western lore, the story does not have a surprise ending. But the telling is well done… And the opening draws you in, like a good newspaper “lede.”
“In a card game, aces and eights are known throughout the West as a ‘dead man’s hand.’ There’s a good reason for it, and this is the story of how the hand got its name…”
I may have to update this post and one about the radio version of the more juvenile “Wild Bill Hickok” TV series if I find time to browse through an intriguing new book about Hickok’s career in Western legends, pulp fiction, and Hollywood iconography: Imagining Wild Bill, by my former University of Tennessee colleagues, Paul Ashdown and Ed Caudill.
As their publisher’s website summarizes:
“When it came to the Wild West, the nineteenth-century press rarely let truth get in the way of a good story. James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok’s story was no exception. Mythologized and sensationalized, Hickok was turned into the deadliest gunfighter of all, a so-called moral killer, a national phenomenon even while he was alive.
“Rather than attempt to tease truth from fiction, coauthors Paul Ashdown and Edward Caudill investigate the ways in which Hickok embodied the culture of glamorized violence Americans embraced after the Civil War and examine the process of how his story emerged, evolved, and turned into a viral multimedia sensation full of the excitement, danger, and romance of the West.”