Young Martha Jane Cannary began life as a camp follower and street urchin. Parentless by the age of twelve, she morphed into the mother of two who just as often took employment as a waitress, laundress, or dance hall girl as she did an Indian scout or bullwhacker. Just as likely to wear a dress as she was buckskins, she was impossible to ignore no matter what she wore, particularly after she’d had a few drinks! And she shamelessly parlayed into a legend the aura of fame that Edward L. Wheeler’s dime novels crafted around her.
Perhaps most amazing of all, in an era where women had few options in life, Calamity Jane had the audacity to carve them out for herself. The gun-toting, tough-talking, hard-drinking woman was all Western America come to life. Flowing across the untamed small towns and empty spaces of South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana like the wild running rivers of the American West, she helped create the legend of Calamity Jane from scratch. Part carnie barker, part actor, part sexually alluring siren, part drunken lout--she was all of these and much more.
Born and raised in Chicago, D. J. Herda worked for years at The Chicago Tribune, as well as at numerous other Chicago-area newspapers and magazines, before becoming an internationally syndicated columnist.
Herda’s interest in Western Americana goes back to his childhood. His fascination with Calamity Jane stretches back to his earliest recollections, and he has been researching her life for decades, convinced that one day he would chronicle the story of the real Martha Jane Cannary in a book. D. J. Herda has lived in the Rocky Mountains of the southwestern United States for nearly three decades.