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From Guns to Gavels: How Justice Grew Up in the Outlaw West

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From Guns to Gavels

How Justice Grew Up in the Outlaw West

By Bill Neal

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Format: Hardback, 384 pages
Other Information: 58 B/W photos, 3 maps
Published In: United States, 15 October 2008
When a thirteen-year-old boy strikes out on his own in 1885, leaving his Civil War-ravaged Mississippi homeland for the wild Red River border land between North Texas and Indian Territory, the American West is a land beyond the reach of the law. Crime thrives in the absence of law officers, courtrooms, judges, and jails. Vigilante justice, the posse, and the hangman's noose fill the void. But by the time the young man - now a veteran outlaw dies by the gun in 1929 after a tempestuous career, the Old West has been largely tamed, its official legal systems firmly in place. In this companion volume to "Getting Away with Murder on the Texas Frontier", veteran defense attorney and prosecutor Bill Neal takes readers from Mississippi to the frontiers of West Texas, Indian Territory, New Mexico Territory, and finally the frozen Montana wilderness through a series of linked, true-life tales of crimes and trials. Tracing the struggles of incipient criminal justice in the Southwest through an engaging progression of outlaws and lawmen, plus a host of colorful frontier trial lawyers and judges, Neal reveals how law and society matured together. Virtually an anecdotal textbook, "From Guns to Gavels" follows a bloody trail from the Wild West through the decade after World War I, when the gavel-wielding, black-robed Judge Blackstone at last gained ascendancy over Judge Winchester and Judge Lynch.

About the Author

Bill Neal practiced criminal law in West Texas for forty years: twenty as a prosecutor and twenty as a defense attorney. His first book, Getting Away with Murder on the Texas Frontier: Notorious Killings and Celebrated Trials (TTUP, 2006), was named Book of the Year by the National Association for Outlaw and Lawmen History, received the Rupert N. Richardson Award for the best book on West Texas history from the West Texas Historical Association, and was a finalist for both the Violet Crown Award from the Writers' League of Texas and the Spur Award from the Western Writers of America. Neal and his wife, Gayla, live in Abilene, Texas.


"Mount up for an interesting reading experience which proves truth is stranger than fiction. I believe author Bill Neal will capture any reader's interest..." --Dee Ann Ray, Clinton Daily News Sept. 19, 2008 "Neal... writes with the knowledge of a courthouse insider as well as a careful student of the Old West justice." --Jimmy Carr, Vernon Daily Record, July 20, 2008 "During a career as a West Texas prosecutor and defense attorney, Bill Neal had a ringside seat at the courthouse for 40 years. Now he is combining his passion for the law, for history, and for storytelling into highly readable books about frontier justice... [Neal] makes frontier history come alive in his stories of outlaws, murderers, early-day sheriffs, Texas rangers, cattle feuds, colorful lawyers, and determined judges. Neal's tales read like a combination of Western novel and courtroom mystery." --Glenn Dromgoole, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Dec., 13, 2008 "From Guns to Gavels is a very interesting and readable book, Neal, an attorney, is a superb storyteller." Jerry Turner, Mexia Daily News, Nov., 21, 2008 "[Neal] has rounded up a bunch of true stories from the area's past about the lawbreakers and lawmakers and the fine line between them that sometimes got crossed in violent and unusual ways." -- Carol Ann Whitmire, Quanah Tribune-Chief, Nov. 23, 2008 "Bill Neal is well versed in this forgotten and largely ignored chapter of the "Wild West" both through his years as a criminal lawyer and as an award-winning historian... Any historical fiction writer seeking food for thought for frontier tales need search no longer." --Historical Novels Review, John R. Vallely "Neal has a thorough grasp of the time and place. The book is deeply and broadly researched, relying heavily on court transcripts and newspaper accounts... Neal remains the master storyteller. Even his digressions, of which there are several, fascinate... Throughout the journey from guns to gavels, Neal never loses the reader's interest." --H-Law Reviews, John Ross, March 2009

EAN: 9780896726376
ISBN: 0896726371
Publisher: Texas Tech Press,U.S.
Dimensions: 16.51 x 3.05 x 25.91 centimetres (0.68 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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