Billy the Kid is both a simple narrative of the life of Henry McCarty Antrim (alias William Bonney aka Billy the Kid) and an analysis of his place and times, and the context of his life. It provides a means for considering his real importance to American history and, particularly, American myth. In fact, Robert Utley says that his purpose is to comment on violence in American society. Utley is known primarily as a historian of the Idaho Wars. As a National Park Service historian, he produced guides for such complex sites as Custer (now little Bighorn) Battlefield. Billy the Kid grew out of Utley’s highly regarded analysis of New Mexico’s Lincoln County War, High Noon in Lincoln: Violence on the Western Frontier, and is aimed, he says, at “stripping away the veneers of legendary.” By the time of Billy’s death in 1881, newspapers and the sensational press (such as Police Gazette) had already made of the Kid a larger-than-life outlaw chieftain. So the legend of Billy the Kid had been building for at least three years, and the manner of his death did nothing to discourage it. Within a year, Pat Garrett, in association with writer Marshall Upson, had published his own account, The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid. Fact and fiction about the Kid would evermore be inextricably intertwined.
Join the Let’s Talk About It Book Discussion series for Billy The Kid at the Library on March 3rd, 2016 at 7:00pm