William Sydney Porter(named Sidney at birth, changed it later) was born on September 11, 1862 in Greensboro, North Carolina, considered by many as the “last capital” of the South as it was the final place where the Confederate government met as a body. Greensboro happens to be about thirty-five miles from my own home town. He read dime novels, anything he could get his hands on, from an early age and, at nineteen, worked in his uncle’s drugstore as a licensed pharmacist. He traveled to Texas for a persistent cough and worked on a sheep ranch as a shepherd, ranch hand, cook, and babysitter before settling in Austin. The next few years saw him as a pharmacist, bank teller, and journalist. He began writing fiction as a sideline. When he was bailed out of jail for embezzlement charges, he fled, living in New Orleans, then the Honduras. Wen his wife became too ill to join him, he returned home, surrendered, was found guilty after his wife’s death from tuberculosis, and sentenced to five years in prison. He left after three years for good behavior, reunited with his daughter, and ended up in New York to be near his publishers. While in prison, he’d had fourteen stories published under a number of pseudonyms, none of them his best known these days.
A heavy drinker, he died of cirrhosis of the liver, complications of diabetes, and an enlarged head on June 5, 1910.
Of course, as everyone knows, he’s one of the best writers known to most everyone(I daresay, even non-readers probably know the name).
THE CABALLERO’S WAY became the foundation of everything Cisco Kid, movies. TV, comic books, whatever. But the character in the story bears scant resemblance to what we know. A killer who killed because he liked it, he wasn’t even Mexican. One character, speaking to the Ranger sent to get him, refers to him as “Goodall.” Quick tempered and fast use his gun, I think the movie I covered for Todd Mason’s Overlooked Movies Tuesday, IN OLD ARIZONA, may have been the start of cleaning up his image(there was an earlier silent I haven’t seen).
The plot of the film sticks pretty close to the story, though scenes were added to make a long enough movie. The Ranger, Lieutenant Sandridge, becomes army Sergeant Mickey Dunn.
It had been a long time since I read the story, any O.Henry story for that matter. It appeared in the book collection HEART OF THE WEST in 1907. Definitely wouldn’t call it forgotten, but since I covered the movie Tuesday, I covered the story here. I’m anal that way.
For real forgotten books, go check out Patti Abbott over at her blog, Pattinase. She does a great duty every Friday gathering links for all participants.