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To Hell on a Fast Horse: The Untold Story of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett Paperback – February 8, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Western historian Gardner (Wagons for the Santa Fe Trade) delivers a dual biography documenting Sheriff Pat Garrett's hunt for the iconic outlaw William Bonney, aka Billy the Kid. As Gardner sees it, the battle between the wily Kid and the determined Garrett is perhaps the greatest of our Old West legends. Digging beneath the myths and melodrama, he begins in Las Vegas during Christmas week, 1880, when the capture and confinement of Billy the Kid made national headlines. Gardner then details the Kid's daring daylight courthouse escape on April 28, 1881, in a hail of gunfire, leaving bloodied bodies behind. I am not going to leave the country, said the Kid, and I am not going to reform, neither am I going to be taken alive again. The chase began, with Garrett finally gunning down the Kid on July 14, 1881. Gardner concludes with a survey of the Kid's robust mythic afterlife in books and films. Gardner's extensive research and authoritative approach ground this compelling historical recreation. B&w photos. (Feb. 9)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
The saga of Billy the Kid and his nemesis, Pat Garrett, has been the subject of numerous fanciful books and several very bad movies. So it is both useful and interesting to read this well-researched and, one hopes, relatively accurate account of the Lincoln County War and the two most famous participants in it. The center of the account is Garrett’s pursuit and execution of the Kid after he escaped from the Lincoln County courthouse jail. Fortunately, Gardner precedes that account with an engrossing examination of the lives of both men and the political and economic milieu of nineteenth-century New Mexico. He effectively uses primary sources, although those sources are often contradictory and reflect the views of competing Lincoln County factions. The portrait of the Kid, surprisingly, conforms to his popular image as a ruthless killer who could also be charming. Garrett is seen as ambitious, laconic, and coldly efficient. This is a fine effort to de-mystify a legendary episode in the history of the American West. --Jay Freeman --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
My lone complaint echoes those that request maps and/or illustration of the geographic area, Fort Sumner, Pete Maxwell's place, etc. Those of us who are only casually acquainted with that area of New Mexico could make good use of them. And while it's not pertinent to the main focus of the book, a little clarification as to the final fate of Jesse Wayne Brazel (whether the reports of the private investigator were corroborated) would be greatly appreciated.
This book is a fascinating read for Old West Buffs, History Buffs, or anyone with an interesting in how our country expanded west. I greatly enjoyed it and will be reading more of Gardner's work as time and budget permit.
The name of Billy the Kid is known far and wide as the young desperado of the Lincoln County War in New Mexico. Tales of his daring and speed with a gun have been spun in books, movies, and television shows. He has became a larger than life antihero, a bad guy that people still cheer for, and that Pat Garrett is still accused of murdering.
Behind all the hoopla, who was Billy the Kid? For one thing, he was a product of the Old West, but he was not born there. He was born Henry McCarty in New York City. His father’s name is in dispute, some saying he was Patrick McCarty. His younger brother was Joseph McCarty.
His mother later married a man named William Henry Harrison Antrim. At times, Billy the Kid was known as Kid Antrim, Billy Bonney, and just The Kid. He was a thief. He was taken in, starving, by John Tunstall, a British native who owned a store and ranch in Lincoln County, New Mexico Territory.
Tunstall was murdered during the Lincoln County War by men loyal to Lawrence Murphy, James Dolan, and John Riley. The Murphy/Dolan clan was on the opposite side of the Lincoln County War.
The Kid, along with other men loyal to Tunstall, was deputized to bring in the men who killed Tunstall. These “Regulators” lead by Dick Brewer ended up in a gunfight that cost Brewer his life. Later, defending John Tunstall’s friend Alexander McSween, the regulators killed Robert W. Beckwith and others when McSween was ambushed, burned out of his house, and slain.
Murder charges were brought against Billy the Kid. Governor Lew Wallace, who would later writer Ben-Hur, offered the Kid a pardon in return for testimony against others. He then reneged on the deal. Bonney escaped from the Lincoln County Jail on June 17, 1879 and rode off into history.
Eventually Pat Garrett was charged with bringing the kid in. After a shoot out at Stinking Springs, Garrett did just that. Billy was tried, convicted, and sentenced to hang. He escaped again killing two lawmen in the process. Garrett tracked him down again, and that gunshot has rang through history.
This is a comprehensive story of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett. The story is told by incorporating direct quotes from witnesses, newspapers, Garrett’s book on the case, and many other historical documents. Everything one needs to know is here. The legend of Billy the Kid, the Legend of Pat Garrett, the rumors that arose then and continue today concerning how Garrett shot the Kid, did the Kid really die, and so forth.
It is probably the best record of the events I have read. It includes the story of Brushy Bill Roberts who claimed to be Billy the Kid and the efforts that continue to try to prove once and for all that the kid is in the grave at Fort Sumter, New Mexico. A single photo is all that remains from the Kid’s New Mexico days.
I give the book five plus stars!
Quoth the Raven…
It's a great read - the real fascination of the Lincoln County War has always been with the people, and each person's story and background is truly fascinating - not a single one was any less of player than the Kid.