Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life

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9780803245532: Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life

Whatever his name or alias at the moment—Henry McCarty, Henry Antrim, Kid Antrim, Billy Bonney—people always called him the Kid. Not until his final month did anyone call him Billy the Kid. Newspapers pictured him as a king of outlaws; and his highly publicized capture, trial, escape, and end fixed his image in the public mind for all time. He was only twenty-one years old when a bullet from Sheriff Pat Garett’s six-shooter killed him on July 14, 1881. Within a year Billy the Kid became the subject of five dime-novel “biographies” as well as Garett’s ghost-written account, and that was just the beginning. Robert M. Utley does what countless books, movies, television shows, musical compositions, and paintings have failed to do: he successfully strips off the veneer of legendry to expose the reality of Billy the Kid. Using previously untapped sources, he presents an engrossing story—the most complete and accurate ever—of a youthful hoodlum and sometime killer who found his calling in New Mexico’s bloody power struggle known as the Lincoln County War. In unmasking the legend Utley also tells us much about our heritage of frontier vigilantism and violence.

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About the Author:

One of the preeminent western historians writing today, Robert M. Utley is the author of High Noon in Lincoln: Violence on the Western Frontier, Cavalier in Buckskin: George Armstrong Custer and the Western Military Frontier and The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull, as well as Frontier Regulars: The United States Army and the Indian, 1848–1865 (1984) and Frontiersmen in Blue: The United States Army and the Indian, 1866–1891 (1981) published by the University of Nebraska Press.

From Library Journal:

Most Americans are familiar with the legend of the outlaw William H. Bonney, better known as Billy the Kid. Utley, a noted historian of the Old West, has written a scholarly biography of the Kid, which--as does all good biography--incorporates the history of his times. Using interviews conducted with the Kid's contemporaries, Utley draws a portrait of a youth who, while not the bloodthirsty killer painted by newspapers of the period, was not a Western Robin Hood, either. Utley concludes: "Except in its final months . . . the Kid's career did not measure up to his reputation. Although a superb gunman and arresting personality, he was a quite ordinary outlaw . . . ." While Pat Garrett's The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid (Univ. of Oklahoma Pr., 1954. o.p.; 1986. pap.) is useful for its contemporary portrait, public and academic libraries serving clients with an interest in the period or the region will want this title.
- Sue Kamm, Los Angeles P.L.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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