Susan Dormady Eisenberg

Novelist & Arts Journalist

Annie Oakley circa 1885

William F. Cody, "Buffalo Bill"

MY WORK IN PROGRESS: AN HISTORICAL NOVEL ABOUT ANNIE OAKLEY

She's the American icon everyone's heard of...and nobody knows.


Anne Oakley was the female star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, which toured the globe from 1884-1908. But though Annie’s name is familiar, she’s erroneously thought to be the crass backwoods girl in the musical "Annie Get Your Gun" or the lady sheriff in the Fifties TV show—and she was the polar opposite of both.

Annie Oakley hailed from Ohio and was a proper Victorian lady who dazzled crowds with her shooting, then retired to her show tent to embroider. Her astonishing gifts impressed her employer, William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, the former scout who was the most famous man in the world circa 1900. But their relationship went awry when she began to steal his glory.

My novel traces Oakley’s journey from her teenage match against her future husband, Irish-American marksman Frank Butler, to her triumphs and reversals as “the peerless lady wing shot” of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. In the form of a memoir, my plot reveals Annie’s struggle to combat Cody’s corrosive envy during the summer of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee (London 1887), and her battle to overcome memories of childhood trauma so she can embrace her own success. As tension builds with her mercurial boss and her baffled husband, Annie makes a bold decision that tests her courage and changes her life.

I introduce a fictional character, Luce Barlow, who adds spice when she gets involved with Bill Cody, and present an accurate portrayal of the real figures who appear, such as Chief Sitting Bull (who adopted Annie into his tribe), Cody’s frustrated partner, Nate Salsbury, and the womanizing Edward, Prince of Wales, one of Cody’s close chums.


FICTION AND ARTS JOURNALISM