With his tale of the Great Cowboy Strikes of the mid-1880s, Mark Lause sweeps the dust off of the historical record and introduces us to the ordinary men—Jack Flagg, Tom Harris, and Broncho John Sullivan— who drove cattle to northern rail heads, boldly demanded a living wage, and sought, without success, to sustain organizations that might challenge increasingly concentrated and violent corporate control of the West. Lause also lends a fresh perspective to the stories of more familiar characters and events, such as Billy the Kid, Henry George, and the Coffyville, Kansas, bombing. He has an eye for detail, which not only give depth to the people and events he describes but also explode the mythology about the West. The chief myth that Lause is concerned with is the notion that, in the West, an egalitarian society took root in which an individual's fate turned on their abilities, work ethic, and strength of character. Purveyors of the mythology of the West deny that corporate control dominated western politics and economics and ultimately crushed movements of "the people" in the form of Greenbackers, Populists, the Knights of Labor, and the Union Labor Party. The history of the "feudal" economy of cattle kingdoms in the Texas Panhandle, for example, were not simply forgotten but were instead methodically snuffed out and buried, Lause argues. Lause sketches for the reader the life and backgrounds of the average cowboy, the conditions and practices that gave rise to a collective ethos on the range, and cowhands’ relationships with local communities and large ranch owners. One turning point in the latter came with the large owners' fencing of once open land and the banning of the cowboy practice of claiming unbranded mavericks as their own. That tradition, which owners had reclassified as a crime—"rustling," historically had afforded men with otherwise limited time in the saddle a way up and out of waged, hard, seasonal labor. Lause notes that, while middle-class elements in town frowned on cowboy culture, ultimately, they more often than not sympathized with their fight against the corporate hired guns who murdered strike leaders and their allies. The bloodbath was the owners’ answer to a series of successful and widespread cowboy labor protests, which were launched at roundup time, when owners were most vulnerable. The cowboy strikes, while not well known generally, were far more widespread and significant than historians have understood previously. Lause’s intensive research connects those strikes to the larger sweep of not only western history but US history—to the Greenback and Populist movements, the Knights of Labor, railroad expansion, wars of extermination and repression against native societies, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. Geographically, he casts a wide net in his research, plumbing small and large local papers in Texas, Wyoming, Kansas, Arkansas, New York, Chicago, Utah, Iowa, Nevada, Minnesota, Montana, and Colorado. Lause establishes the supremely violent nature of western conquest and the political system created in the wake of US victory. That system unleashed a brutal war against independent, grassroots work-class and farmer movements. The political feuds that wracked the region were not idiosyncratic but instead "reflected the pervasiveness of political violence." Class conflict was as violent in the West as it was in the East, he contends. While he gives the reader a blow-by-blow account of multiple gunfights, the most glaring pattern that emerges from his work is the one-sided, mercenary nature of many of the killings, such as the vigilante violence of "Stuart's Stranglers," at the behest of the Montana Stockgrowers' Association, against "rustlers." Beyond brute force, the machinations of pretender reformers undercut and distracted the grassroots movements. These seeming spokespeople for "labor" helped to divide supporters of independent and egalitarian politics along Republican and Democratic lines. Lause explores the political intrigues of William Carsey—"a pioneer of political dirty tricks and dark ops." Lause is an expert guide with a wry, occasionally wicked, sense of humor. His knowledge of western fact and fiction is wide-ranging, so that we are treated to a tour of the western genre, from the Great Train Robbery, to John Ford's films, to Deadwood and Blazing Saddles. For Lause, the violence visited upon the cowboy’s movement and radicals and reformers of various stripes was rooted in the impulse of large corporations to seize as much power and control from the "little people" as possible, especially in the wake of the disastrous winter of 1886-1887 and the mobilizations of discontented citizens. Discontent was rife among the "little people," as electoral support for the Union Labor Party candidate in Texas Panhandle counties demonstrated. Cause’s book bears witness to the existence and significance of this contest, and the bloody, cruel reprisals that followed across the northern to the southern Plains.