"David Crockett: The Lion of the West," by Michael Wallis

W.W. Norton Publishing, Emily Priddy
Michael Wallis, David Crockett
W.W. Norton Publishing, Emily Priddy

Jeff Glor talks to Michael Wallis about "David Crockett," his biography of the great American hero.

Jeff Glor: What inspired you to write the book?

Michael Wallis: Like other historical figures I have written about (i.e. Pretty Boy Floyd and Billy the Kid, to name but two), David Crockett (he never signed his name Davy) is a character shrouded in myth, half-truths and legend. The authentic story of this frontiersman reads much better than most of the other versions, including the Crockett portrayed by Fess Parker for Walt Disney in the '50s.

JG: What surprised you the most during the writing process?

MW: Many things surprised me while researching and writing this biography. For example, although Crockett had very little formal education, I discovered he read Ovid's Metamorphoses translated into English, the Bard, and the King James Bible. He was neither a buffoon nor a great intellect, but a savvy frontiersman who was comfortable deep in the woods on a bear hunt but also at ease in the halls on Congress and the fancy parlors of Philadelphia and New York. His self- effacing humor and down-home country wit profoundly influenced Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln, Will Rogers, and many others.

JG: What would you be doing if you weren't a writer?

MW: I would be a stage and motion picture actor. If you had asked this question 45 years ago, I would have responded, "Playing outfield for the St. Louis Cardinals."

JG: What else are you reading right now?

MW: I am researching and reading about Old West saloons and brothels, as well as a multitude of works concerning the impact of women in the American West.

JG: What's next for you?

MW: As the voice of the Sheriff of Radiator Springs in Pixar's motion picture "Cars," I return to the big screen on June 24 when the "Cars" sequel premieres nationwide. Also, I am busy as a co-founder of the new Route 66 Alliance, a non-profit dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of historic Route 66, a subject I have written about and promoted for many years. And, of course, I am narrowing the list of candidates for my next book.

For more on "David Crockett," visit the WW Norton website.

  • Jeff Glor

    Jeff Glor was named anchor of the Sunday edition of the "CBS Evening News" in January 2012 and Special Correspondent for "CBS This Morning" in November 2011.