cover image Billy Gashade: An American Epic

Billy Gashade: An American Epic

Loren D. Estleman / Author Forge $23.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-312-

In a rousing and entertaining ride through the Old West, Estleman (City of Windows) takes potshots at our conventional understanding of western heroes and their legends. The tale is told by 88-year-old Billy Gashade who, in Hollywood in 1935, relates with much gusto his life on the frontier. Billy Gashade is not our hero's real name. He assumes that name at age 16 from a deceased but otherwise well-satisfied customer in a New York bordello during the New York City draft riots of 1863. Fatefully entangled during those riots with the minions of the infamous Boss Tweed, Billy runs for his life, leaving his wealthy and socially elite New York family for the uncertain sanctuary of an alias in the untamed West. As a musician skilled with the piano, guitar and banjo, he soon earns his keep playing in saloons and brothels, where his music places him in the high company of outlaws, whores, gamblers, gunmen, cowboys, lawmen and others of unwashed western fame. Quick wits, bad luck and good timing somehow keep Billy alive. He barely survives his meeting with Quantrill and Bloody Bill Anderson. He is befriended by Frank and Jesse James. Mountain man Jim Bridger saves his scalp. He crosses paths with Custer, Hickok, Hardin, Billy the Kid and even Oscar Wilde. His astute observations reveal the fact and fluff from which legends are made. Billy winds up in Hollywood, penning songs for the countless singing cowboys in the early days of motion pictures. His entire story is a song, lyrical and alive with biting wit, drama and the grace of a fine tale well told. (Apr.)