Topics in this study will appear over time.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

That Fiend in Hell: Not misunderstanding

I am happy to mark completion of the tenth post devoted to examining the book "That Fiend in Hell": Soapy Smith in Legend. I have taken time and care with these posts as each has required close and careful examination of the author's reasoning and conclusions.

Not Misunderstanding "That Fiend in Hell"

On her blog Cathy Spude writes,

The purpose of the book is to use the story of the last months of Smith's life, as it evolved after his death, to illustrate my understanding of how history, legend and myth intersect in modern American society. It is simply an exercise in the dissection of popular history.

… I was not interested in the details of history but the framework of the legend....

… My book is not about history. It is about myth and legend in modern American society….

Ever since my first comment regarding That Fiend in Hell, the author has insisted that I do not understand the purpose of her book. I do understand her statement of purpose. I also see many problems in her book that undercut that purpose. As I mark post #10 on this blog, I wonder if she can now understand why I have undertaken this blog. The reason for each posting is self-explanatory, and the accumulation of their type points to the general cause: the book contains a large accumulation of errors in fact and of interpretation.

To repeat, I absolutely understand her words as they are written above. Her book is not about history but about myth and legend, and yet she seems to want to revise history to justify her understanding of myth and legend. Looking into the exaggerated and fictional stories weaved into Soapy's life history is indeed interesting and even a little fun. However, I did not start and now continue this blog to examine those falsehoods and exaggerations. No, I began this blog because (1) I also found that many of the historical facts had been misinterpreted or interpreted so strangely as to merit examination, and on a personal note, because (2) there are discourteous accusations about my research and book that I seek to dispel.

Cathy Spude has also written that she believes I interpret "That Fiend in Hell" as a “personal affront” to my ancestor. Rather, in general, I interpret her work as an affront to history. While in various ways and in various sections of her book, she undeniably presents new information and apt interpretation, her book also contains many instances of error and strangely insistent and narrow interpretation. As a result, I have many more detailed points to publish before this blog is complete.

I hope you are enjoying the posts as much as I do in bringing them to you. While their cause is not so enjoyable, I find that the opportunity for close examination of topics is. My objective in conducting each of these examinations remains the same, to serve the goal of the Soapy Smith Preservation Trust: To preserve, promote, and expand a factual history of Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith II. The purpose of Cathy Spude's book is often obscured by numerous factual and interpretive errors. These I do not misunderstand in the least and will continue to address them in the months and years ahead.