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Recommended Reading

The West of Billy the Kid - Frederick Nolan

In The West of Billy the Kid, renowned authority Frederick Nolan has assembled a comprehensive photo gallery of the life and times of Billy the Kid. In text and in more than 250 images-many of them published here for the first time-Nolan recreates the life Billy lived and the places and people he knew. This unique assemblage is complemented by maps and a full biography that incorporates Nolan's original research, adding fresh depth and detail to the Kid's story and to the lives and backgrounds of those who witnessed the events of his life and death.

Here are the faces of Billy's family, friends, and enemies: John Tunstall and John Chisum, Sheriff Pat Garrett and Governor Lew Wallace, Jimmy Dolan and Bob Olinger, Alexander McSween and Paulita Maxwell, and many others. Here are Santa Fe and Silver City as Billy the Kid saw them, Lincoln, Las Vegas, and Tascosa. Recent photographs show the Kid's haunts as they appear today.

The Lincoln County War - Frederick Nolan

The legend of the Lincoln County War in New Mexico and its most romantic figure, Billy the Kid, holds a special place in the history of the American West. Fueled by greed, propelled by religious and racial prejudice, inflamed by liquor and firearms, the war was a struggle to the death for the economic domination of a region where both sides saw enormous opportunity for acquiring wealth. In the end, neither side won and both suffered tremendous losses, human and financial.

John Tunstall, the McSweens, Jimmy Dolan, Billy the Kid, the Hispanic townspeople of Lincoln, the outsiders who tried to understand what was happening and restore law and order to the strife-torn territory--all speak out, and Frederick Nolan weaves their stories and opinions together with his own insightful commentary to produce a seamless, immensely readable account enlivened with eighty-three photographs and three maps.

Selected by True West magazine as one of its Fifty Greatest Western Books of the 20th Century, acknowledged to be the fullest and most carefully researched study of perhaps the most famous feud in the history of the American West, Frederick Nolan's masterwork, The Lincoln County War: A Documentary History, the result of fifty years of research, is now presented in a new edition which includes an addendum with corrections and additions, together with a new foreword by the author.

John Henry Tunstall - Frederick Nolan

In 1956, Frederick Nolan, then 25, located in the archives of the British Foreign Office a substantial file of original correspondence between the British and American governments, the family of John Tunstall, and many of the participants in the New Mexico Territory's Lincoln County War. Soon after this he was given unconditional access to Tunstall's letters and diaries, and three and a half years later--although he had never set foot in the United States--completed a biography based upon the sympathetically-edited letters and diaries of the young English rancher whose brutal murder in February, 1878, triggered the bitter and unrelenting violence that followed. His widely-acclaimed debut is recognized today as a breakthrough work which completely revolutionized historical understanding of the personalities and events of New Mexico's Lincoln County War and in the process changed forever the way the subject would be written about. The first book ever to link those events to the shadowy cabal known as the Santa Fe Ring, the first book ever to place Billy the Kid in the true context of his time, the first book ever to make available the letters of such men as Alexander McSween, Huston Chapman, and the hitherto unknown Robert Widenmann, it set new standards for both research and writing in this field and in the process became a classic. It is augmented in this edition with a new foreword and a supplement of corrections to the first edition which incorporates the author's more recent historical and biographical research.

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The Illustrated Life and Times of Billy the Kid: The Final Word - Bob Boze Bell

Bob Boze Bell’s Final Word on Billy the Kid and his world, with many never-before-published photos. This well-crafted book is profusely Illustrated with over 460 images, including over 100 paintings and illustrations by the author, plus rare maps and images that provide a vivid look into the numerous controversial episodes in the Kids short life. It is a revolutionary, new-style history book that is informative and entertaining for young and old alike.

The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid - Pat Garrett (Annotated by Frederick Nolan)

More than twelve decades after Billy the Kid’s death in 1881, books, movies, and essays about this western outlaw are still popular. And they all go back to one source: The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid, published in 1882 by the man who killed Billy, Sheriff Pat Garrett.

Frederick Nolan, an authority on the American Southwest, examines the legends introduced by The Authentic Life and shows how Garrett’s book is responsible for misconceptions about the Kid’s early life and his short, violent career. This edition, complete with the original text, corrects errors, amplifies Garrett’s narrative, and elucidates the causes and course of the Lincoln County War in New Mexico during the 1870's. Nolan provides an introduction that reappraises the last, fatal meeting of Garrett and Billy the Kid, as well as a postscript about the sheriff’s snakebitten life following the moment that made him famous.

Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life - Robert M. Utley

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 Garrett’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 Garrett’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 legendary 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.

Antrim is My Stepfather's Name - Jerry Weddle

This thoroughly-researched work offers a new—and refreshingly realistic—look at the famous outlaw. Having combed interviews, memoirs, and primary documents, Weddle examines the family and community that produced Billy. He also debunks a number of misconceptions and falsehoods. Billy's childhood buddies in Silver City, New Mexico, remembered a smart, ambitious youth with a strong, loving mother and a distant stepfather. Acquaintances at Camp Grant, Arizona Territory, knew a resourceful teenager versed in the lawless ways of frontier survival. Both perspectives add up to a vivid and very human story. Previously unpublished photographs round out this volume. 

Billy the Kid: His Life and Legend - Jon Tuska

Was Billy the Kid the most romantic of Western desperadoes or a vicious killer? Ever since the Kid was shot by Pat Garrett in 1881, historians, storytellers, and filmmakers have been recounting and reinventing his life. In 1983 Jon Tuska published his first edition of Billy the Kid, and it was immediately recognized as the most accurate account yet produced. Choice called it A magnificent tour de force and a model for others who would study legendary heroes of the American West.

The Real Billy the Kid - Miguel Antonio Otero, Jr.

Published in 1936, The Real Billy the Kid: With New Light on the Lincoln County War, is a landmark biography of the infamous Western outlaw William H. Booney, Jr.--his childhood, encounters with the Apache, entanglement in the murderous Lincoln County War, and his friendship with Sheriff Pat Garrett.

Otero, a former governor of New Mexico, knew the Kid for a short time and found other biographies of him lacking in facts.  Otero sought out and interviewed others who knew the Kid personally for this fantastic biography.

History of Billy the Kid - Charles A. Siringo

Reprinted only once since its first publication in 1920, the History of “Billy the Kid” is the rarest book on the New Mexico gunfighter.  Born in Texas in 1855, Siringo was a cowboy, Pinkerton detective, western writer, and Hollywood adviser until his death in 1928, and crossed the Kid’s path once or twice in the Texas Panhandle and New Mexico.  His account incorporates some inaccuracies but offers genuine historical nuggets such as cowboy Jim East’s eyewitness account of the Kid’s capture by Pat Garrett at Stinking Springs.  Enormously popular at the turn of the century, Siringo single-handedly kept Billy the Kid’s flame alive until the 1920s.  Historian Frederick Nolan discusses the place of Siringo’s account in Billy the Kid literature.

Billy the Kid: The Legend of El Chivato - Elizabeth Fackler

With his cold smile, youthful charm and blazing six-guns, Billy the Kid (1859-1881) was, depending on who you talk to, a popular hero, a vicious killer or both. Fackler's third novel tends to glorify the Kid's legacy, portraying Billy as basically a good boy, a loyal friend and a victim of corruption and betrayal. The New Mexico Territory in the 1870's was a violent place where bullets settled most disputes and Billy liked the simplicity of that. Henry McCarty, aka Kid Antrim, William H. Bonney, and Billy the Kid, was a drifter and small-time cattle rustler who joined forces with the Tunstall-Chisum faction in the bloody Lincoln County War, fighting against the powerful Murphy-Dolan gang. In Fackler's telling, when Billy's friend, John Tunstall, is murdered by a Dolan posse, Billy vows revenge and cowboys start dropping all over the range. Billy and his saddle pals, dubbed "Regulators," are soon on the run from the law.


Fackler's Billy is a likable hero, adored by the local folk but feared by the murderous Murphy-Dolan gunslingers. Finally, he is tracked down by his erstwhile friend Sheriff Pat Garrett, who, according to the author, shoots Billy dead while the Kid is unarmed. This is an exciting tale, crammed with historic detail and told with skill, action and a bit of whimsy. 

To Hell on a Fast Horse - Mark Lee Gardner

No outlaw typifies America’s mythic Wild West more than Billy the Kid. To Hell on a Fast Horse by Mark Lee Gardner is the riveting true tale of Sheriff Pat Garrett’s thrilling, break-neck chase in pursuit of the notorious bandit. David Dary calls To Hell on a Fast Horse, “A masterpiece,” and Robert M. Utley calls it, “Superb narrative history.” This is spellbinding historical adventure at its very best, recalling James Swanson’s New York Times bestseller Manhunt—about the search for Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth—as it fills in with fascinating detail the story director Sam Peckinpah brought to the screen in his classic film Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.

The Billy the Kid Reader - Frederick Nolan

Despite the countless books and films devoted to him, Billy the Kid remains one of the most elusive figures of the Old West. Now, award-winning western historian Frederick Nolan has scoured the published literature to offer this well-rounded compendium on the life and times of William H. Bonney.

The Billy the Kid Reader contains some of the best articles on the Kid—including gems no longer in print. From the first dime novel that appeared shortly after his death to the research of today’s historians, these writings bring Bonney’s life into sharp focus.

Nolan highlights two distinct schools of Billy the Kid studies: works of popularizers who tended to exaggerate his historical role, and the findings of grassroots researchers who have reassessed our perceptions of the Kid. Dozens of illustrations enhance the text, illuminating the Kid’s career and notoriety.

This collection shows that the life of William H. Bonney is not yet a closed book—far from it. Many versions of his life remain little more than unchallenged tradition. The Billy the Kid Reader puts that lengthy body of work in perspective and will satisfy seasoned Kid aficionados as well as first-time readers eager to learn more about the man and the legend.

Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride - Michael Wallis

In this revisionist biography, award-winning historian Michael Wallis re-creates the rich anecdotal saga of Billy the Kid (1859–1881), a young man who became a legend in his time and remains an enigma to this day. In an extraordinary evocation of the legendary Old West, Wallis demonstrates why the Kid has remained one of our most popular folk heroes. Filled with dozens of rare images and period photographs, Billy the Kid separates myth from reality and presents an unforgettable portrait of this brief and violent life.

Pat Garrett: The Story of a Western Lawman - Leon Metz

In the history of the Southwest, Pat Garrett stood tall, both physically and in legend. He was more than just a famous western sheriff, more than the slayer of the legendary Billy the Kid. While on occasion his gun was for hire, and while he was sometimes known to protect special interests-particularly those of the cattle barons-more often than not Pat Garrett combined in his six-foot five-inch frame the good, honest, and honorable qualities that went to make up the lawman of the Old West.

Garrett is, of course, immortal for his successful efforts to end the career of the Kid, but, as the author amply demonstrates, Garrett's career by no means ended on that hot evening in July, 1881, in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Within days Garrett had established a reputation as an implacable foe of western criminals, a reputation that was to follow (and sometimes haunt) him for the rest of his life. He was an important figure in the frontier politics of Texas and New Mexico, and he rubbed shoulders with the great and the near great of the region.

Through the story of Patrick Floyd Jarvis Garrett the panorama of the Southwest unfolds: its dreams, its courage, its explorations, its mistakes, its violence, its conquests, and ultimately its emergence as a settled society. No other character in southwestern history is more closely identified with the land and the people of America's last frontier.

Murder on the White Sands - Corey Recko

On a cold February evening in 1896, prominent attorney Col. Albert Jennings Fountain and his eight-year-old son Henry disappeared near the White Sands of New Mexico at the hands of suspected cattle rustlers. The governor called in both the Pinkerton Agency and Pat Garrett, killer of Billy the Kid, to investigate. The evidence pointed at three former deputies, who were defended by powerful ex-judge, lawyer, and politician Albert B. Fall. The verdict? Not guilty. The bodies of Albert Fountain and his young son Henry have never been found. Corey Recko tells for the first time the complete story of the Fountains and, through extensive research, reconstructs what really happened to them and who the likely killers were.

"This is the 'ultimate' Pat Garrett/A.J. Fountain, West Texas/Southern New Mexico book. I have never seen such a beautifully researched piece. This is the kind of book I wish I had written."--Leon Metz, author of Pat Garrett and John Wesley Hardin

"This is the most comprehensive examination of all the evidence I've ever seen."--Frederick Nolan, author of The Lincoln County War and The West of Billy the Kid

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