cover image Anything for Billy

Anything for Billy

Larry McMurtry. Simon & Schuster, $18.45 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-64268-6

Anything for Billy is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author's affectionate ode to dime novels, Billy the Kid, and the wild, wild West. Benjamin Sippy is a successful but unfulfilled pulp fiction writer who, suffering the throes of midlife crisis, has abruptly fled his stable Philadelphia life, wife and nine daughters in search of the lawless West of his bestselling stories. After a comically abortive attempt at train-robbing, ``Mr. Sippy''his name the constant butt of jokeshappens quite by accident upon a cowboy named Joe Lovelady and his sidekick, a kid of 20 named Billy Bone, whose brash unpredictability and one accidental shooting have earned him an undeserved but welcome reputation as a dangerous gunslinger. In the brisk, folksy style of the old-timey dimestore novel, this fictional memoir of Billy the Kid is told through the eyes of a fish-out-of-water Eastern writer who just happened to be along for the ride, saw it all and aims to set the record straight. Barbecue Campbell, Simp Dixon, Katie Garza and all the related characters of Kid lore are here, wonderfully fleshed out and seamlessly blended with McMurtry's own formidable creations. Billy himself is perhaps McMurtry's most vivid inventiona wandering, wide-eyed boy, a one-man gang-who-couldn't-shoot-straight, who kills recklessly and without remorse, mainly to keep pace with his out-of-control reputation. This tale of random violence, unlikely romance and quicksilver friendships in the old West is a rip-roaring gamble with a tear in its eye, and it pays off in spades. Paperback rights to Pocket Books; Literary Guild main selection; major ad/promo. (October)