Billy the Kid


Billy the Kid

A Short and Violent Life

Robert M. Utley

342 pages
Illus., maps


August 1991


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eBook (EPUB)
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December 2013


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About the Book

“It’s certain to remain the authoritative biography that at last makes the Kid’s life whole and understandable.”San Francisco Chronicle

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. 

Author Bio

Robert M. Utley is a preeminent historian of the West and the author of numerous award-winning books, including The Last Days of the Sioux Nation; Frontiersmen in Blue: The United States Army and the Indian, 1848–1865 (Nebraska, 1981); Custer and the Great Controversy: The Origin and Development of a Legend (Nebraska, 1998); and Frontier Regulars: The United States Army and the Indian, 1866–1891 (Bison Books, 1984).


“Historian Robert M. Utley has provided us with the best portrait to date of the real Kid, from his shrouded origins in New York City to the escalating criminal career that ended only when lawman Pat Garrett surprised him with a bullet. . . . Utley’s [book] is valuable both for its careful separation of fact from fiction . . . and for its thoughtful treatment of the Kid as an American frontier symbol.”—Washington Post

“A gripping, compelling yarn you can’t afford to miss. This is the western book of the year—any year.”—Books of the Southwest

“Noteworthy for its massive research, exciting reconstruction of several gun battles, and Utley’s refusal to be suckered into the Kid-as-Hero myth.”—Kirkus Reviews

“It’s certain to remain the authoritative biography that at last makes the Kid’s life whole and understandable.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“A saga as thrilling as it is meticulously documented.”—Boston Globe


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