If you read the previous post, Uncovering The Pontotoc Conspiracy, you know the last book I read was a fictionalized account of the Gus Bobbitt slaying and the vigilante justice carried out by the citizens of Ada, Oklahoma. Imagine my surprise when I recognize the name of the killer on a garish colored paperback as I walked past the non fiction section of the library. I had to stop and look at Shotgun for Hire by Glenn Shirley.
You see, I was curious. Was the fictionalized novel accurate? Was it colored by the family’s connection to the fascinating story? My curiosity won the day and I checked it out. Of all the treasures I checked out that was the first one I opened. I wanted to read it while the other book was fresh in my mind. Who was Deacon Jim, really: Killer Miller or upstanding citizen?
Well I read it. As far as a historical book goes, it was not the exhaustive analysis that turns people away from reading historical books. As a matter or fact, as a degree holder in history, I found it almost cursory. Adequately researched, but not the plump meaty narrative for which I had hoped.
The narrative of Shotgun For Hire is told from an informative point of view, without emotion. It reviews the life of Jim Miller, from his childhood murders to his last days in Ada. He was a merciless killer. At the age of eight he killed his grandparents who were raising him. He became a gun for hire as an adult, while at the same time maintaining his membership in the Methodist church and his social position with prominent citizens.
I wish the book would have gone more in-depth into that particularly divergence of his personality. That is where the fascination for me lies. How could he be such a cold-blooded killer and maintain that facade. He spent time once traveling with a minister and holding camp meetings. He did not drink or use tobacco. He went to church every Sunday, although he apparently didn’t listen much while he was there. The whole ten commandments thing…
Jim Miller was also responsible for the murder of Pat Garrett, the killer of Billy the Kid. Before Deacon Jim hung he reportedly claimed that he had killed 51 people. While I don’t approve of vigilante justice, I can’t help feeling that the people of Ada saved lives the night they decided to hang the conspirators.
This book was an interesting look at the Wild West. I learned quite a bit from this book about a subject that I like. (Western History not killers…)