The Legend of Russian Bill

Written by Richard Lapidus
Review by Tom Vallar

William R. Tettenborn spoke four languages, dressed like Buffalo Bill, and had long curly blond hair like General Custer. He toured with President U. S. Grant and a Russian prince, rode a great white horse, and met his death at the end of a rope in November 1881. While those may be the facts of his life, nearly everything else is legend or tall tales, and Lapidus spins those to his own devices in this novel. “Russian Bill” got his nickname from the leader of the Clanton Gang in Tombstone, Arizona, “Curly Bill” Brosius, who challenged him to perform feats to become an outlaw. Lapidus even invents Bill’s love interest in Shakespeare, New Mexico, where he met his demise (mostly because of the young lady). Each chapter contains a separate vignette of Bill’s life, making the novel feel uneven. Nevertheless, the unique characters make this a tale of the Old West worth reading.