This story begins and ends in the last decade of the 19th century. However, most of it takes place in 1876 in Deadwood, a town in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
It opens with a typical Old West bar fight. A man holds a cocked shotgun to the chest of a leathery, drunken old woman. She seems to enjoy taunting him. A cowboy, new in town, recognizes her and comes to her defence. Later he finds her sitting outside, drinking. He knows her as Calamity Jane and remembers that when he was 12 years old she saved his life. This novel is a series of stories about Calamity Jane, most of them woven around her care of 12-year-old Jimmy Glass and his handicapped little sister, Hour. Jimmy has managed to bring his sick father from their isolated cabin into Deadwood for medical help. Arriving exhausted, Jimmy sees his father put in the pest tent with other smallpox victims.
It is Calamity Jane who ensures the children are given a tiny room behind a brothel and regular food. From then on, they have a series of amazing old west adventures with the hard- drinking, loud-cursing Jane (don’t read this book if bad language offends you). Each story is full of sharply defined Old West characters, along with all we have come to expect from tales of the period—hostile Lakota, a runaway stagecoach, a fire, crazed horses, ladies of the night. It’s the spirit of the Old West brought to life.
But then the story becomes more serious as Jane realizes Jimmy and Hour need a proper education. The tone of the book changes, and it moves to a touching conclusion. This novel is both entertaining and very moving. A tale told by a master storyteller.