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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » To Hell on a Fast Horse: Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, and the Epic Chase to Justice in the Old West » User review

Outstanding Dual Biography of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett

  • Mar 14, 2010

Until I read this book I had only read mythological accounts of Billy the Kid, which usually contain nothing of Pat Garrett’s life.  Books and movies have mythologized Bill they Kid as a Robin Hood type, happy go lucky outlaw and Pat Garrett is demonized as a cowardly man who shot him down in the dark.

This book dispels those myths and gives a fuller account of the lives of both these men in a well written and documented dual biography.

The book walks through the early life of both men, with William Bonney’s (Billy the Kid) being much more mysterious and unclear.  He documents the Kid’s rambling nature and his involvement in the Lincoln’s County wars in New Mexico, where he comes off looking not quite as narcissistic and craven as one would think.  It is clear that Bonney had little few skills except with his gun, which is the only way he could really make a living.  His unbelievable, daring, and bloody escapes are even more dramatic than the movies that portray them.  The author does an outstanding job at using what little documentary evidence exists to bring to life, real life, Billy the Kid.

But the book also has done a great service to the ill fated Pat Garrett.  I knew absolutely nothing about Garrett before reading this book and the author provides a very vivid, full biography of this misunderstood Western lawman.  Far from the cowardly person often portrayed in the movies, he was a man of honor, kept his word (mostly), and was equally the epitome of the fearless, tough lawman as the more famous and renowned Wyatt Earp.  He did fall on hard times and was a rather bad business man, which ultimately lead to his downfall and possibly murder.  The author does a splendid job of exploring his life and the mysterious events surrounding his death.

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the history of the American West that is not based on myth.

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More To Hell on a Fast Horse: Billy... reviews
review by . July 04, 2010
Having always been a fan of the story of Billy the Kid since Young Guns, I was truly disappointed in this book.       It begins with telling the stories of both Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett from well before they crossed paths. From New York to New Mexico their worlds would collide. There are many stories out there that portrayed them as friends, but this one does the tales justice by debunking that theory. All though they may have worked together from time to time, …
About this book


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)
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ISBN-10: 006136827X
ISBN-13: 978-0061368271
Author: Mark Lee Gardner
Genre: Biographies & Memoirs, History
Publisher: William Morrow
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