The young men’s trip through America is reminiscent of Hunter Thompson’s famous trip with Oscar Acosta to Las Vegas that resulted in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Which means that the young men spend most of their time getting drunk, getting into fights, visiting prostitutes, and pulling tricks on one another. They also spend a lot of time hunting, which in that era meant killing as much wildlife as you possibly could.
Their shenanigans are often amusing, in a frat-boy sort of way, and are enhanced by Booth’s candor and wit, and he is frank in his discussion of subjects that were taboo at the time. Since this is a diary that is not all that surprising, but this work is not like the diaries of Anne Frank or Harry Truman. They are a basic commentary on food, drink, lodging and adventures, without the vision of social commentary that makes Fear and Loathing much more that an endless but entertaining debauch. Description and depth are sparse, but I expect that’s because these young men were interested in other things.
Mr. Cutsforth does an admirable job of providing a backstory and copious notes explaining and clarifying the means and mores of the times, as well as “ translating” the slang of the day, all without bogging down the story. Buffalo Bill does play a role in this tale, and Mr. Booth and the famed showman eventually became friends. I think that having his name in the title of this book is a bit of a stretch though, and more a matter of marketing than anything else. Although the prose in this book is bare-boned at best I think kudos are in order for Mr. Cutsforth for bringing use this diary.