Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride

Separating fact from fiction in the case of Billy the Kid is no easy task, but Michael Wallis does the best job of it to date in this fascinating view of one of America’s most famous desperadoes. It’s remarkable how little is verifiable in the short span of 21 years that framed a life remembered largely because “the Kid” was said to have killed a man for each of his years on the planet. Because so little is definitively proven about Billy the Kid, Wallis spends lots of space writing about the times and places Billy the Kid knew—from New York City, where the Kid is thought to have been born, to Lincoln County, New Mexico territory, where his legend took root, and where he was shot to death by Sheriff Pat Garrett in 1881. It’s an engrossing tale, and Wallis manages to transform the shadowy character of folklore and myth into a flesh-and-blood young man of his time. The “endless ride” in the book’s subtitle refers to the enduring story in which the Kid is seen by some as “El Chivato,” a friend to the oppressed, and by others as a ruthless sociopath. Read this book and then judge the Kid’s character for yourself.