In this fictionalized biography, Gary Paulsen, one of the all-time great voices (and personalities) of children's literature, is up to several things at once. First, of course, he's telling the story of Reeve's life, or what little is known about it. Second, he's filling in the missing details with an imagination born not only of research, but also of having lived many of those details himself, in the course of a wild and wooly life only partially chronicled in his many autobiographical books. Third, the whole story is defending his thesis, expounded in his Foreword and Epilogue, that Reeves was the kind of real-life Western hero that more famous characters, such as the Bills -- Hickok, Cody, and the Kid -- as well as Wyatt Earp and Kit Carson only pretended to be. Paulsen is forceful, and more than a touch angry, in his argument, and by the end of The Legend of Bass Reeves: Being the True Account of the Most Valiant Marshal in the West readers will be convinced that the silence about Reeves in histories of the period is an injustice.
The style is classic Paulsen -- meaty, gritty, and muscular. He doesn't dwell on the rougher aspects of his subject, but he doesn't shy away from them either. Above all, Paulsen is known for telling kids the truth, and not sugarcoating it. While more sensitive children may be bothered, most kids appreciate the directness and honesty, which is why this most prolific of authors (approaching 200 books) is also one of the most successful and highly regarded. THE LEGEND OF BASS REEVES has everything a kid, and adult, could want -- action, adventure, and excitement, all in the service of making known an important, but forgotten, historical figure.