Written With Lead: America's Most Famous and Notorious Gunfights From the Revolutionary War to Today, by William Weir. Cooper Square Press. 347 pages. $17.95.
The flavor of most American myths," Weir writes in his introduction, "is anti-establishment, individualistic and violent, with most of the violence being performed with guns." And, with that fascination and a great deal of impressive scholarship, he has significantly expanded his 1992 book. He examines -- and attempts to set the records entirely straight on -- gun killings from before the American Revolution to the Muhammad / Malvo sniper shootings of 2002. There are 21 chapters, each devoted to one episode -- from Little Bighorn to the Branch Davidian siege, from the OK Corral to Chicago's gang wars. There are elaborate footnotes and bibliographies for readers who would like to go further. Weir writes well and clearly. The tales are the stuff of high drama and shoot-'em-up movies -- American mythology. For those with a taste for such stuff, it's a lovely, informative read.