Follow Me to Hell: McNelly’s Texas Rangers and the Rise of Frontier Justice

St. Martin’s. Apr. 2023. 384p. ISBN 9781250214553. $29.99. HIST
At 5' 5" and 125 pounds, Leander McNelly was an improbable figure for a hero. But as captain of the Texas Rangers in the mid-1870s, he was a legendary fighter who led his unit from the front and never asked of them things he wouldn’t do himself. He first became a police officer when Governor Edmund Davis established a Texas State Police force in 1870 and named McNelly as one of four captains. One of McNelly’s first assignments was arresting and bringing back his own boss: he had absconded with $38,000. Lack of funds closed the unit, but it was reestablished in 1875 to address widespread cattle rustling, and McNelly was rehired, leading a unit in south Texas in 1875–76. He died the following year at the age of 33. Clavin (Tombstone) knows Western history, but the story he tells here is inconclusive—the Texas Rangers would arrest someone; then the suspect would escape or be let loose—and laying out the backstory for every person introduced slows the narrative repeatedly. Still, Clavin tells a good story.
VERDICT Primarily for lovers of Western history.
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