Synopses & Reviews
A legendary showdown.
Billy the Kid — a.k.a. Henry McCarty, Henry Antrim, and William Bonney — was a horse thief, cattle rustler, charismatic rogue, and cold-blooded killer. A superb shot, the Kid gunned down four men single-handedly and five others with the help of cronies. Two of his victims were Lincoln County, New Mexico, deputies killed during the Kid's brazen daylight escape from the courthouse jail on April 28, 1881.
After dispensing with his guards and breaking the chain securing his leg irons, the Kid danced a macabre jig on the jail's porch before riding away on a stolen horse as terrified townspeople — and many sympathizers — watched. For new sheriff Pat Garrett, an acquaintance of Billy's, the chase was on...
To Hell on a Fast Horse re-creates the thrilling manhunt for the Wild West's most iconic outlaw. It is also the first dual biography of the Kid and Garrett, each a larger-than-life figure who would not have become legendary without the other. Drawing on voluminous primary sources and a wealth of published scholarship, Mark Lee Gardner digs beneath the myth to take a fresh look at these two men, their relationship, and their epic ride to immortality.
"Western historian Gardner (Wagons for the Santa Fe Trade) delivers a 'dual biography' documenting Sheriff Pat Garrett's hunt for the iconic outlaw William Bonney, aka Billy the Kid. As Gardner sees it, the battle between the wily Kid and the determined Garrett is 'perhaps the greatest of our Old West legends.' Digging beneath the myths and melodrama, he begins in Las Vegas during Christmas week, 1880, when the capture and confinement of Billy the Kid made national headlines. Gardner then details the Kid's daring daylight courthouse escape on April 28, 1881, in a hail of gunfire, leaving bloodied bodies behind. 'I am not going to leave the country,' said the Kid, 'and I am not going to reform, neither am I going to be taken alive again.' The chase began, with Garrett finally gunning down the Kid on July 14, 1881. Gardner concludes with a survey of the Kid's 'robust mythic afterlife' in books and films. Gardner's extensive research and authoritative approach ground this compelling historical recreation. B&w photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The final chapters describing Garrett as an old-style lawman in a postfrontier society, with interactions with President Theodore Roosevelt, serve to distinguish this book from other recent Kid biographies....Highly recommended both for readers of popular history and for scholars." Library Journal
"[A] fine effort to de-mystify a legendary episode in the history of the American West." Booklist
"The double-helix relationship between Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett is one of the abiding fascinations of the West. No one has come closer than Mark Lee Gardner to capturing their twin destinies and their inevitable final collision....You can almost smell the gunsmoke and the sweat of the saddles." Hampton Sides, author of the New York Times bestsellers Blood and Thunder and Ghost Soldiers
“So richly detailed, you can almost smell the gunsmoke and the sweat of the saddles. ”
—Hampton Sides, New York Times bestselling author of Ghost Soldiers
No outlaw typifies Americas mythic Wild West more than Billy the Kid. To Hell on a Fast Horse by Mark Lee Gardner is the riveting true tale of Sheriff Pat Garretts thrilling, break-neck chase in pursuit of the notorious bandit. David Dary calls To Hell on a Fast Horse, “A masterpiece,” and Robert M. Utley calls it, “Superb narrative history.” This is spellbinding historical adventure at its very best, recalling James Swansons New York Times bestseller Manhunt—about the search for Lincolns assassin, John Wilkes Booth—as it fills in with fascinating detail the story director Sam Peckinpah brought to the screen in his classic film Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.
About the Author
Mark Lee Gardner has written a broad range of books and articles on the American West, including a number of interpretive guides for the National Park Service on subjects ranging from George Custer to Geronimo. As a historian and consultant, he has worked with museums, historic sites, and humanities councils throughout the West. He has been a visiting professor in the Southwest Studies department at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. He lives with his family in Cascade, Colorado.