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.