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 (after Backtrail) 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 1870s 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. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/1995 Release date: 08/01/1995 Genre: Fiction
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