Here is a review from Leonard Maltin for the book Public Cowboy No. 1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry by Holly George-Warren.
Gene Autry: Public Cowboy No. 1
By Leonard Maltin
June 3, 2007
This vivid, detailed chronicle of Gene Autry's life and career is a pleasure to read. George-Warren has done her homework, and presents a straightforward, honest portrait of the man who conquered virtually every medium of show business.
Autry came from poverty, and had no inspiration from his absentee father, yet he developed a remarkable work ethic and determined to succeed in life. Once he had a taste of success, he never stopped workingor supporting the people around him, including his mother, his siblings, his colleagues and coworkers, even his shiftless father. Perhaps that's why he sought relief, or escape, in liquor, and in womanizing.
George-Warren tells this story in a non-judgmental way, allowing the reader to draw his or her own conclusions. And if she never captures the inner man, as some biographers do, it may well be because Autry never revealed that alter ego, even to himself. What you saw was what you got.
With full access to Autry's personal papers, including correspondence from his early years and ledger entries that he scrupulously maintained as he climbed the ladder of success, the author presents to us a man with incredible resolve and discipline, and an innate business savvy that surprised people who dismissed him as "just" a singing cowboy.
The book offers solid assessments of his Autry's recordings and the evolution of his singing style, and fascinating behind-the-scenes details of his career in Hollywood and his ongoing battles with Republic Pictures.
Gene Autry wasn't the same person he portrayed in those Saturday matinee Westerns, but he wasn't a phony, either. He was a self-made man who married the woman he loved and took responsibility for his familyboth his blood kin and the people who mattered to him throughout his career. He had faults like any of us, but he also had many virtues, including loyalty and generosity. His rags-to-riches story is well told here.