Posted in Historical, nonfiction, Spotlight on December 4, 2014

little miss sure shot

Title:                Little Miss Sure Shot: Annie Oakley’s World
Author:           Jeffrey Marshall
ISBN:               978-0-9845-5060-0
eBook ISBN:   978-1-3110-5771-6
Available in Paperback $8.95 on Amazon /
Available as an eBook $3.95


Little Miss Sure Shot is a fictionalized account of the life of Annie Oakley, drawing heavily on the real timelines and events of her life. Focusing on key times in Annie’s life, such as the early years Annie spent with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, touring Europe, and her loving marriage to fellow sharpshooter Frank Butler, the book looks at what it was like to be a woman in a sport dominated by men in the late 1880’s.


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Annie Defends Her Name

Annie Oakley stepped out of the hansom cab, paid the driver and walked purposefully to the gray stone building in front of her. She peered at the embossed script on the black metal sign and knew she was in the right place: It read, broadhurst and stevens, and it had the right degree of elegance for an office on Madison Avenue. As she pushed through the heavy door and headed down the dim hallway, she took note of the dark walnut paneling and the rich deep-blue carpet.

After a brief word with an efficient secretary, Annie was ushered into the office of Henry Broadhurst, Esquire, one of the most celebrated libel attorneys in the country. The room was furnished in dark wood and leather, and red brocaded curtains let in a modest amount of pale morning light. It seemed right for a man, and certainly for a lawyer, she thought. Broadhurst sat behind a large desk, dressed in a navy blue suit and a deep-blue tie with narrow yellow stripes. A tall man with an air of solemnity, he stood and showed her to a burgundy leather armchair facing him.

“Miss Oakley, I would be delighted to represent you,” he said. His face was flushed over a black beard streaked subtly with gray, and he was a bit stout; his watch chain bulged over the vest on his suit. “But I must warn you that the outcomes in these cases are unpredictable at best. And we know the Hearst forces probably will fight you at every turn.”

Annie had come to his office with real purpose: Her name had been sullied, and she wanted desperately to do something about it. She may have been a country girl from Ohio, unschooled and largely unlettered, but in the previous generation, she’d become a star, celebrated from New York to Paris and countless small towns across the United States. Now newspapers across the country owned by William Randolph Hearst had published a scurrilous report that linked her to theft and cocaine, something she found unimaginable.

The year was 1901, and the Hearst papers had circulated an item reporting that Annie Oakley was in prison, having been sentenced for stealing the pants of a Negro man in order to get money to buy cocaine. Annie discovered from another newspaper the real source of the story: A woman in a burlesque show who called herself “Any Oakley” had been the culprit, and some reporter had sprinted off with the news without checking out the facts more carefully.

Friends and acquaintances assured Annie that no one would believe the story was about her; it seemed like a hoax, or a sick joke that could be laughed off. But Annie was adamant about clearing her name. It was quintessential Annie Oakley: proud—even a touch self-righteous—and highly protective of her hard-earned reputation as a performer and extraordinary markswoman in a career that had made her the toast of Manhattan, London, and even Venice.

To Annie the story threatened everything she had built over the years: her image as a maiden from the Great Plains (a promotional ploy that had clung to her), pure as white linen. The reality was a bit different, like an image in a refracted glass. She had married at age 16 to fellow marksman Frank Butler, and she also had been onstage—generally not considered a place for ladies—though her career as an actress was hardly the stuff of legend.

Ordinarily, as her husband and manager, Frank would have been there with her. But he had come down with a heavy cold two days earlier and was still saddled with a hacking cough. So they agreed she would go alone; the appointment had been made a week earlier, and Annie was anxious to get the process underway.

So here she was, dressed in a gray suit, laced leather boots, and a small black hat slung at an angle over her long chestnut hair, which tumbled well past her shoulders. She sat forward in the chair, almost primly, and waited for Broadhurst to continue. The lawyer, who never had met her before, saw a petite, well-kept woman with gray eyes that sometimes hinted at shyness but met his gaze squarely.

“Are you determined to fight all these incidents of libel? I think you indicated there are more than fifty instances.”

“Indeed I am,” she replied. “As long as one remains, I’m afraid my reputation is in danger.”

“Very well.” He pursed his lips slightly over his well-groomed beard. Then he paused for a moment and put his hands together, flexing his fingers slowly. “We will do whatever you wish. I wish I could say it will be a matter of months, but in truth, it could be much longer. Are you prepared to wage a long fight?”

“I am, absolutely.” She was soft-spoken, but her tone was firm.

“There could be a great deal of travel involved,” Broadhurst continued. “You will almost certainly be asked to personally testify in each of these cases. The court will want to hear how you have been personally harmed by these falsehoods.”

Annie chuckled. “Mr. Broadhurst, travel is something I’m very used to. As I say, I will do my best to make myself available. I’m not a rich woman, of course, but this is more important to me than I can say.”

Excerpted from Little Miss Sure Shot: Annie Oakley’s World by Jeffrey Marshall. Published by Jeffrey Marshall. Copyright © Jeffrey Marshall 2014. Used with permission. All rights reserved.


About the Author

Jeffrey Marshall is a writer, poet and retired journalist. This is his first novel but third book, having published a business book on community reinvestment more than 20 years ago and a volume of collected poetry, River Ice, in 2009. He has an undergraduate degree in history from Princeton and a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern. A resident of Scottsdale, AZ, he is a board member of the Desert Foothills Land Trust in Carefree, AZ.

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