West Like Lightning
The #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of American Sniper brings the Pony Express to life in this rich and rollicking new history"One can hear horse hooves pounding across the prairie and sense the fear and courage and excitement." —Tom Clavin, author of Dodge CityOn the eve of the Civil War, three American businessmen launched an audacious plan to create a financial empire by transforming communications across the hostile territory between the nation’s two coasts. In the process, they created one of the most enduring icons of the American West: the Pony Express. Daring young men with colorful names like “Bronco Charlie” and “Sawed-Off Jim” galloped at speed over a vast and unforgiving landscape, etching an irresistible tale that passed into myth almost instantly. Equally an improbable success and a business disaster, the Pony Express came and went in just eighteen months, but not before uniting and captivating a nation on the brink of being torn apart. Jim DeFelice’s brilliantly entertaining West Like Lightning is the first major history of the Pony Express to put its birth, life, and legacy into the full context of the American story. The Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company—or “Pony Express,” as it came to be known—was part of a plan by William Russell, Alexander Majors, and William Waddell to create the next American Express, a transportation and financial juggernaut that already dominated commerce back east. All that stood in their way were almost two thousand miles of uninhabited desert, ice-capped mountains, oceanic plains roamed by Indian tribes, whitewater-choked rivers, and harsh, unsettled wilderness.The Pony used a relay system of courageous horseback riders to ferry mail halfway across a continent in just ten days. The challenges the riders faced were enormous, yet the Pony Express succeeded, delivering thousands of letters at record speed. The service instantly became the most direct means of communication between the eastern United States and its far western territories, helping to firmly connect them to the Union. Populated with cast of characters including Abraham Lincoln (news of whose electoral victory the Express delivered to California), Wild Bill Hickock, Buffalo Bill Cody (who fed the legend of the Express in his Wild West Show), and Mark Twain (who celebrated the riders in Roughing It), West Like Lightning masterfully traces the development of the Pony Express and follows it from its start in St. Joseph, Missouri—the edge of the civilized world—west to Sacramento, the capital of California, then booming from the gold rush. Jim DeFelice, who traveled the Pony’s route in his research, plumbs the legends, myths, and surprising truth of the service, exploring its lasting relevance today as a symbol of American enterprise, audacity, and daring.

West Like Lightning Details

TitleWest Like Lightning
Author
ReleaseMay 8th, 2018
PublisherWilliam Morrow
ISBN-139780062496799
Rating
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, Historical, Literature, 19th Century, North American Hi..., American History

West Like Lightning Review

  • Kim McGee
    January 1, 1970
    The Pony Express was a doomed idea from the start but some how this hair brained scheme connected the country from St. Joseph Missouri to Sacramento California in record time. In 1860 it could take six months or longer for a letter to make it from one coast to the other. The Pony Express riders rode a long day at top speed with minimal stops in any kind of weather to deliver not only personal and business mail but also national news. Jim DeFelice has done his homework and gives us a blow by blow The Pony Express was a doomed idea from the start but some how this hair brained scheme connected the country from St. Joseph Missouri to Sacramento California in record time. In 1860 it could take six months or longer for a letter to make it from one coast to the other. The Pony Express riders rode a long day at top speed with minimal stops in any kind of weather to deliver not only personal and business mail but also national news. Jim DeFelice has done his homework and gives us a blow by blow account of the characters that rode for the express as well as the obstacles they faced. These young daring men risked bad weather, Indian attacks, bandits, angry Mormons and other dangers and as soon as they got off a horse and got a hot meal, they were off again. This is not only the history of the Pony Express but a frank account of some of the West's most colorful characters. The author shares the myth and over the top stories of Billy the Kid, Wild Bill Hickok and Kit Carson as well as the toned down version of what most likely happened. This is a fascinating look at the Wild West before it was tame. My thanks to the publisher for the advance copy.
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  • Joseph Williams
    January 1, 1970
    Listened to the audio. Reader is perfect for this topic.The author offers an expansive history of the Pony Express contextualizing it within its time. There are often many side tangents, but I found these to be more fun than engaging. The author’s humor also prevails throughout ultimately making this a great, accessible book not just of the narrow topic of the Pony, but of the Old West, and America.
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  • D.J. Hamon
    January 1, 1970
    A fantastic telling of an epic time. DeFelice has a huge task filtering through legends (and outright lies) while presenting truth. He does a fine job of keeping the story straight while paying a sort of homage to the legends and tales that have defined the Pony Express.Each era has its own values, and some 19th century values would make one wince if expressed today. The topics of racism, slavery, and Indian relations are presented with due regard to historical injustices, yet without overshadow A fantastic telling of an epic time. DeFelice has a huge task filtering through legends (and outright lies) while presenting truth. He does a fine job of keeping the story straight while paying a sort of homage to the legends and tales that have defined the Pony Express.Each era has its own values, and some 19th century values would make one wince if expressed today. The topics of racism, slavery, and Indian relations are presented with due regard to historical injustices, yet without overshadowing the main topic. The narrative really is a fun read! Details on the players and historical background information give expanded context to the overall story. Humor is injected occasionally, including the occasional saucy aside. The only change I would have preferred is a more organized timeline, or other big picture way to decipher where the reader is in the story at any one time. Nonetheless, the book works quite well! It can’t be an easy task to write about legends. DeFelice narrates the history adeptly, yet manages to honor many of the legends Americans have come to love.
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  • Ralphz
    January 1, 1970
    Right away, one of the most amazing facts about the legendary Pony Express is that it lasted a mere 18 or so months. And another of the most amazing facts is that it was intended to exist only a short time.The Pony Express ran mail from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California. But it was only a demonstration for the men who started it. They really wanted a normal mail contract from the U.S. government, and the Pony, as it was called, was a way to show that they could deliver the mail.The Right away, one of the most amazing facts about the legendary Pony Express is that it lasted a mere 18 or so months. And another of the most amazing facts is that it was intended to exist only a short time.The Pony Express ran mail from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California. But it was only a demonstration for the men who started it. They really wanted a normal mail contract from the U.S. government, and the Pony, as it was called, was a way to show that they could deliver the mail.The cliché of only single young riders was just that, something added after the Pony was over, as was most of the legend. For example, the one man who did more than anyone to burn the Pony Express into the consciousness of the nation, Buffalo Bill Cody, likely never rode it. But his Wild West show helped turn it into a Western legend.The author uses the device of the 1860 presidential election to tell his story with aplomb and humor. He recounts the stories, legends and tall tales as we follow the news that Lincoln had won all the way from the East to the West just a few days later, which was a revelation.Just months after opening, the telegraphs came along – and there was a telegraph station that the Pony delivered to, in fact. As the Pony wrapped up, the telegraph took over, and the men who started the Pony had their hand in the transcontinental railroad, too.This is a fun, fast-moving story and a must if you’re interested in the stories of the Wild West.Recommended.This book was won from Library Thing.For more of my reviews, go to Ralphsbooks.
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  • Janice
    January 1, 1970
    I think this could have been an interesting book, but the way it was told totally bored me. The author tried to place the pony express within historical context, but IMHO, it didn't work. There didn't seem to be any logic to how the story was told...he went off on so many tangents. I think his book took longer to read than the pony express existed!
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  • Northumberland
    January 1, 1970
    The #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of American Sniper brings the Pony Express to life in this rich and rollicking new history"One can hear horse hooves pounding across the prairie and sense the fear and courage and excitement." —Tom Clavin, author of Dodge City
    more
  • Deedee
    January 1, 1970
    Dewey 383.143FAY-FA
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