I love rodeo stories. I especially love good rodeo stories, so I enjoy the times when I’m able to read a book about the sport.
My wife found a copy of Biting the Dust; The Wild and Dark Romance of the Rodeo Cowboy and the American West, authored by Dirk Johnson. It was published in 1994, and it focuses on bull rider Joe Wimberly and bronc riders Bud Longbrake and Craig Latham.
I was particularly interested in Latham’s stories – he and his family have been friends for a number of years, and Craig Latham is one of the greatest men I’ve ever met.
At the time of publishing, Johnson, the author, was the Denver Bureau Chief of The New York Times. His journalistic credentials made me more interested in the book – oftentimes, I find a journalist’s novels easier to read; maybe it’s that I prefer it after so many years of being associated with the industry.
While Johnson’s writing was “comfortable” to read, his style of frequent breaks and changes in flow made the book difficult to read in general. Just when a storyline was starting to flow well, a hiccup would come in the form of nonsensical background for several paragraphs, then return to the storyline.
But that wasn’t the biggest problem with Johnson’s work. For a man who worked for many years for one of the most prestigious newspapers in the United States – and who as recently as a year ago was working for Newsweek magazine – I am quite disappointed that he misspelled the name of an important character in the non-fiction book.
Craig and Lori Latham were just a few years into their marriage when Johnson wrote the book. Unfortunately, Johnson misspelled Lori’s name throughout the book. It’s one of the most basic tasks a reporter can perform, but Johnson failed.
It’s an inexcusable mistake, and it was just another black mark in what I had hoped to be a great book on rodeo.