After years of cowboying, Charles A. Siringo had settled down to store-keeping in Caldwell, Kansas, when a blind phrelogist, traveling through, took the measure of his mule head and told him that he was cut out for detective work. Thereupon, Siringo joined the Pinkerton National Detective Agency in 1886. A Cowboy Detective chronicles his twenty-two years as an undercover operative in wilder parts of the West, where he rode with the lawless, using more stratagems and guises than Sherlock Holmes to bring them to justice and escaping violent death more often than Dick Tracy. He survived the labor riots at Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, in 1892 (his testimony helped convict eighteen union leaders), hounded moonshiners in the Appalachians, and chased Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch. Once described as a small wiry man, cold and steady as a rock and born without fear, Charlie Siringo became a favorite of high-ups in the Pinkerton organization. Nevertheless, the Pinkertons, ever sensitive to criticism, went to court to block publication of Siringo's book. Frank Morn, in his introduction to this Bison Books edition, discusses the changes that resulted from two years of litigation. Finally published in 1912 without Pinkerton in the title or the text, A Cowboy Detective has Siringo working for the Dickensen Detective Agency and meeting up with the likes of Tim Corn, whom every western buff will recognize. The deeper truth of Siringo's book remains. As J. Frank Dobie wrote, His cowboys and gunmen were t of Hollywood and folklore. He was an honest reporter.
Frank Morn is a professor of criminal justice at Illinois State University and author of The Eye That Never Sleeps: A History of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency (1982).