The Creation of the Wild West
By Michael Wallis
Friday, June 14, 2019
Join best-selling author, writer of history, and cultural geographer Michael Wallis for a free lecture about his book The Creation of the Wild West. The presentation is followed by a book signing.
The “Wild West”—an American icon in and of itself—draws visitors from around the world who travel the western United States in search of the adventures chronicled in the books and films, played out by cowboys, Indians, outlaws, and heroes. In the John Ford film, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which chronicles the death of the Old West and of its archetypical villains and heroes, a newspaper editor says, “Sir, this is the West. When the fact becomes legend, print the legend.”
That is exactly what many authors and filmmakers have done, and continue to do when presenting their notion of the American West. Saturday matinee westerns and the period films about the American West that we all enjoyed were based on romanticized traditions of the past created from hearsay, fables, and songs that sprang from American history.
There is a line between acknowledging the legend and presenting the genuine article: a line between fiction and nonfiction; between good and bad; between myth and reality; between telling the whole story or just part of the story. The truth is that there were no white hats, no black hats, but a whole bunch of gray hats. Yet in the eyes of visitors both foreign and domestic, the modern American West is still first and foremost the Wild West of imagination.
In this talk, Walls sorts out reality from myth and presents a true picture of the American West—warts and all.
About our speaker
Michael Wallis is a historian and biographer of the American West. He has published 19 books, including the award-winning Route 66: The Mother Road, which is credited with sparking the resurgence of interest in the highway. His other titles include The Lincoln Highway: Coast to Coast from Times to the Golden Gate, the critically acclaimed best-seller The Best Land Under Heaven: The Donner Party in the Age of Manifest Destiny, and Los Luceros: New Mexico’s Morning Star.
Wallis has been nominated three times for the Pulitzer Prize, and once for a National Book Award. In 2016, he received an Emmy Award for his work in the documentary film Boomtown.
Among many prestigious honors, Wallis has won the Will Rogers Spirit Award, the Western Heritage Award from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, the Oklahoma Book Award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book, and the Best Western Nonfiction Award from the Western Writers of America. Wallis is also a recipient of the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award, the Lynn Riggs Award, and the first John Steinbeck Award.
Wallis is also and internationally known speaker and voice talent. His distinctive voice can be hear in the 2006 animated feature film Cars from Pixar Studios. He is a co-founder of the non-profit preservation organization the Route 66 Alliance and is an advocate for all historic roads and trails.