No, Randy Stapilus isn't an Idaho native, but he's spent so much time here that he knows more about our history than many of us born here. In Outlaw Tales he explores a dark but colorful side of the state's history in a dozen sketches. His subjects range from larcenous territorial governor Caleb Lyon to assassin Harry Orchard and serial mariticide Lyda Davis. Orchard is the only figure I knew about, as his murder of former governor Frank Steunenberg has been the subject of numerous studies, including Anthony Lukas's 1997 tome Big Trouble. Even here, however, Stapilus has fresh information to share, basing his account on the newly discovered first version of Orchard's confession.
Stapilus is a lively writer, and I wish he'd had a hand in the Idaho history textbook I studied in junior high. His latest work includes a map and plenty of references, and he's even tracked down photos of many of the principals involved. Nevertheless, an index would have been handy, even in a book of 119 pages, since some of his villains crop up more than once. Those dirty rats . . .