Tap Dance: A Tall Tale of the Wild West

Written by Robert S. Levinson
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

Set in the Wild West after the Civil War, this tall tale was also a subject for Ned Buntline’s dime weekly and Frank Leslie’s dime magazine of the West. The novel stars two cowboys – Swaney and McDukes – who are in and out of prison. McDukes blames Swaney for the death of his wife and vows revenge. In order to accomplish his mission, McDukes must break Swaney out of prison (twice). Tap Dance, California, is the destination of our heroes in escaping the law. They travel to many destinations and experience adventures along the way, which can be found in the aforementioned weeklies.

The storyline can be a little far-fetched at times, but I think that is the author’s goal. Many of the articles in those early American weeklies were meant to provide readers with a sense of adventure and may not include any element of truth. The characters would become folk heroes, and readers are often left with an exciting picture of the Wild West. The book is a fascinating glimpse of western culture, while those who read and enjoy many western novels may find its tongue-in-cheek approach a bit disconcerting.