Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride

Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride

3.6 19
by Michael Wallis, Todd McLaren
     
 

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In this new revisionist biography, award-winning historian Michael Wallis, the best-selling author of Route 66, re-creates the rich, anerdotal saga of Billy the Kid (1859-1881), a deeply mythologized young man who became a legend in his own time and remains an enigma to this day.

Overview

In this new revisionist biography, award-winning historian Michael Wallis, the best-selling author of Route 66, re-creates the rich, anerdotal saga of Billy the Kid (1859-1881), a deeply mythologized young man who became a legend in his own time and remains an enigma to this day.

Editorial Reviews

Henry McCarty (1859-81), a.k.a. Billy the Kid, was a frontier gunslinger, a hunted outlaw, and, not least, the dime-store novel creation of Gilded Age journalists. Since his famous demise at the hands of Sheriff Pat Garrett, the Kid has graduated from local legend into national myth, becoming the subject of dozens of novels, poems, and films. Route 66 and Pretty Boy author Michael Wallis has composed a biography that delineates what is real and what is not about America's most beloved badman.
Publishers Weekly
The boy who would become Billy the Kid (1859-1881) was born Henry McCarty, perhaps in the Irish immigrant wards of New York City. Not much is known about his parents, and it's difficult to trace his whereabouts until his family turned up in Silver City, Colo., in the early 1870s. Both the facts and the legend pick up in 1877, when Henry-already known to some under the alias Kid-shot a man who was bullying him and began a life on the run. Wallis's reconstruction of the Kid's exploits is engrossing. But even more, Wallis (Route 66) shows Billy the Kid as a product of his era, one of profound social dislocation. Billy the Kid was, indeed, only the most legendary of a generation of "desperate men" who knew how to handle a gun. At the same time, a new kind of sensationalist journalism was being created, and reporters were more than happy to contribute to the creation of a myth. Wallis, the host of PBS's new American Roads, writes clean prose, occasionally enlivened by a particularly lovely turn of phrase ("the liquid rustle of cottonwood leaves"). Over the decades, countless books have been written about the infamous outlaw, and this is surely one of the best. 60 illus. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal

Historian Wallis (Route 66) turns his attention to Billy McCarty (1859–81), a.k.a. Billy the Kid, carefully separating fact from myth—a difficult task, since the myth has all but obscured the facts. Drawing on archival sources and interviews as well as documents and secondary works, Wallis digs beneath the surface, clearly identifying what is known or probable and presenting the reasonable alternatives for what is conjecture. He emphasizes the politics of the Gilded Age and how it affected the frontier and Billy in particular. This well-written and engaging biography is aimed primarily at general readers interested in the West and provides a clear, concise, and reliable account of Billy; Wallis is careful not to make his story so complicated that it confuses readers. Nevertheless, given the extensive research underlying it, the book can stand alongside Robert Utley's more scholarly Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life. Recommended for public and academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ11/1/06.]
—Stephen H. Peters, Northern Michigan Univ. Lib., Marquette

Kirkus Reviews
In this objective, non-sensationalistic biography of legendary outlaw Billy the Kid (1859-81), historian Wallis (Pretty Boy, not reviewed, etc.), host of the PBS series American Roads, painstakingly sifts fact from fiction. The trail of The Kid runs colder each year. A legal tussle even broke out recently over exhuming his mother's remains to compare the DNA to that of the body beneath The Kid's tombstone. Following the work of pioneering Western historians such as Frederick Nolan and Robert Utley, Wallis discusses this and other controversies surrounding the desperado (e.g., did he have Hispanic ancestors?) before venturing his own, usually plausible, conclusions. Although variously known as Henry Antrim and William H. Bonney, the outlaw was likely born Henry McCarty to a mother who fled Ireland's Great Famine of the 1840s. Neither a modern-day Robin Hood nor a cold-blooded killer, The Kid was, suggests Wallis, simply a scrawny ex-New York street urchin forced to live by his wits after the early death of his mother and abandonment by his stepfather. It didn't help that he came of age during a time when a generation of Civil War veterans, often alcoholic and alienated, had access to a glut of new firearms. For much of his adolescence a junior member of a cattle-rustling outfit, The Kid was puffed up out of all proportion as a leader of a gang of desperadoes by dime-story novelists and journalistic hacks. A gregarious sort who abstained from alcohol, he enjoyed dancing and singing and dealing monte and poker to rubes. To be sure, he had blood on his hands, but, claims Wallis, the number of these deaths was exaggerated. Crucially, the author shows how The Kid got caught up in New Mexico'sLincoln County War, a conflict of "greed and corruption waged by profiteers, charlatans and hired guns," where loyalties shifted easily and dangerously. Of more than 50 people indicted during this period, only The Kid was convicted of a crime. Not groundbreaking scholarship, but a sensible summary of a small-time criminal whose short, violent life became fodder for American myth.
From the Publisher
"Wallis writes clean prose, occasionally enlivened by a particularly lovely turn of phrase…. [C]ountless books have been written about the infamous outlaw, and this is surely one of the best." —Publishers Weekly Starred Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400104161
Publisher:
Tantor Media, Inc.
Publication date:
04/30/2007
Edition description:
Unabridged, 9 CDs, 11 hours
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 5.30(h) x 1.10(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“Wallis writes clean prose, occasionally enlivened by a particularly lovely turn of phrase…. [C]ountless books have been written about the infamous outlaw, and this is surely one of the best." —-Publishers Weekly Starred Review

Meet the Author

Michael Wallis is the best-selling author of Route 66, Billy the Kid, Pretty Boy, and David Crockett. He hosts the PBS series American Roads. He voiced The Sheriff in the animated Pixar feature Cars. He lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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Billy the Kid 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
PurpleCards More than 1 year ago
When Pat Garrett shot and killed Billy the Kid on July 14th 1881 in New Mexico Territory a legend was born. From the corrupt streets of New York to the corrupt towns of the Wild West, Billy the Kid's 21 short years are brought vividly to life by this fascinating biography. So few actual facts are known about him that historians do not even agree about his birthplace or even his real name. Michael Wallis has painstakingly sifted through all the exaggerated stories and outright lies that have surrounded him over the years and through a mixture of anecdotes from people who knew him, reliable sources, historical documents, and his own meticulous research, he has debunked many of the myths of his murderous ways and discovered that "the truth of the young man was neatly covered up through sleight of hand with historical facts by a host of dime novelists, journalists, and hacks.......he was then and forever a mirage." Until his mother's death in 1874 when Billy was only 14, he was a normal mischievous boy. Afterwards he became a young man who had to fend for himself and grow up very quickly by living on his wits and eventually turning to horse stealing and gambling to live. This is not just a history of Billy the Kid, but also a history of the Old West during the late 19th century, of the lawlessness and corruption during his short life, including the infamous Lincoln County War. I particularly enjoyed the photographs dotted around the book, which included many of the characters and places mentioned, and the cover of the book shows the only documented photographic image of him, taken in late 1879 or early 1880. Paulita Maxwell, one of Billy's lady friends, said in later years, "I never liked the picture, I don't think it does Billy justice". The young man's image is forever frozen in time - just like his myth.
MichaeltheNookGuy More than 1 year ago
I've read a lot of books on Billy but I really think this one's the best. Very detailed but flows like a novel. Worth the money. - Michael
NimueKR More than 1 year ago
I found this story of Billy the Kid very detailed, informative and interesting. It kept the flow of the historical details and gave more infomration than I've read before on this subject. I would highly recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author presents the Kid--whose origins remain a mystery--for what he actually was: a skinny, charming young man who learned survival at an early age as a thief, an escape artist, and a killer (though not nearly as prolific a murderer as myth has taught us) and who eventually met his fate during the range wars of New Mexico. A brave, reckless lad who is still a hero ('El Chivato') among some Mexicans. Considering the sparsity of information available, particularly about the Kid's origins, the author delivers a concise yet complete history of one of the West's most notorious outlaws.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The life of Billy the Kid is fascinating and depicted well in this book. My only problem was that the author was a little prone to going off on long winded tangents about seemingly inconsequential things such as the history of nearly every town mentioned including who founded it, when, etc. the book is meticulousy researched almost to a fault and you don't really get to the more interesting aspects of the Kids life until the last 75 pages. so in my opinion it was good for a scholarly read but perhaps not for strict entertainment.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In his new book, Billy the Kid, The Endless Ride, Michael Wallis offers a different view of a young man who made his mark primarily around the southern region of New Mexico Territory. Wallis begins with Billy¿s birth in New York City. ¿If, indeed, his birthplace was New York, no records that can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he ever lived there have been uncovered.¿ The Lincoln County War in southern New Mexico Territory brought Billy into prominence. Miguel Antonio Otero, two-term governor of New Mexico Territory, said of Billy, ¿I liked The Kid very much. Nothing would have pleased me more than to have witnessed his escape. He had his share of good qualities and was very pleasant. He had a reputation for being considerate of the old, the young and the poor he was loyal to his friends and above all, loved his mother devotedly.¿ Otero was one of many Hispanics who held Billy in high esteem. Billy respected them, was fluent in their language, and loved their culture, their food and one of their own. The Lincoln County War would put him at odds with political and economic MORE competitors. His participation in the war would cost him his life. He would be shot down by a man who himself had walked the thin line of right and wrong, a man who had a reputation of his own. Billy the Kid, The Endless Ride is well documented and researched. Author Michael Wallis provides much needed background on Billy¿s beginning¿something most writers ignore. In so doing, we learn more about the young man who would become a historic personality. Wallis concludes: ¿No matter how the story is told, Billy the Kid lives on. Whether he is described as El Chivato, champion of the oppressed, or a Satanic psychopath, he remains irrepressible, mysterious, and lethal. ¿His ride across our popular imagination will never end.¿
Anonymous 10 months ago
I thought i would enjoy this book, but it becomes obvious the author injects personal opinion into historical fact. His anti-gun and anti-NRA rant were blatent examples. I read only history. If writers of history want to be taken seriously, state the history researced and found and let the political opinions that are a dead give away as to authors politics go. In other words: Shut up and sing. The Kid's story is probably not within these pages, unfortunately.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read on the history of the west as well as the life of Billy the Kid.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Even today Billy the Kid is still famous as the greatest outlaw of the Old West. Many books have been written about him but this one to me goes into more detail of his life and the legend of Billy the Kid.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bottom line is Pat Garret killed the wrong man and lied about it to get the reward and fame. This biography is very accurate with the crucial flaw of most Billy the Kid bios, the Kid did not die and his true identity was William Henry Roberts AKA Brushy Bill. This has been proven beyond ashadow of a doubt based on sworn depositions by people that knew thw Kid intimately. A number of very inept historians have kept the myth alive that Pat Garrett killed the Kid. They have done this because they feel threatened because their origianal hypothesis is wrong. The true story of William Henry Roberts puts everything in its proper context. However this biography is only useful in that it dispels the dime novel myths about the Kid.