Wednesday, June 14, 1995

Billy the Kid: A Bio-Bibliography

by Jon Tuska

A fascinating work in two ways. The first is that Tuska tells the intriguing life of the Kid in a clear, readable manner that is engrossing and yet highly scholarly. The second is that, in the remaining sections of the book, Tuska contrasts the Kid's image in books, film and general legend with the historical facts. Much of this section is a rather tiring litany of bad film plots, but it all comes together when Tuska talks about the historian's responsibility to sift the fact from the fiction when discussing legend (and he chastises many scholars for failing to do this). The biography section was the most interesting, however.

I learned about the Lincoln County War, which I'd never heard of before, and that the Kid fought on the side of those who battled some of the most disgusting political corruption on record. I came away with a clear picture of the Kid's personality and even some respect for him, although as Tuska says, he was no saint. (By the way, Tuska is a genuine scholar: even this book, with its less than rarefied subject matter, had untranslated Latin passages!)

four stars

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