This second book in the Desert Legends Trilogy follows 16-year-old Jim Doolen as he’s drawn reluctantly into the Lincoln County Wars.
A chance encounter with young Bill Bonney (not yet known as Billy the Kid) leads Jim to a job on a ranch near Lincoln, New Mexico Territory, with his new friend. But all is not quiet on the range, and the boys are soon caught up in the feud between two factions competing for lucrative army contracts and a monopoly on local commerce. When the boys witness a brutal murder, Bill takes matters into his own hands and mobilizes a vigilante posse – the Regulators – sworn to revenge. Even after the Regulators are deputized, they are still quick to the trigger. Jim is torn between joining Bill in his fight against a corrupt government and following his own peace-loving conscience.
Wilson has clearly done his research into the West of the 19th century and draws many contemporary events and historical personages into his story. Through Jim’s travels around New Mexico Territory, he meets Buffalo Soldiers, ranchers, Mexicans, and Indian agents, and learns about everything from Custer and Little Big Horn to the Alamo. Sometimes the conversations tend towards oratory rather than carefully placed nuggets of history, but Wilson does keep up the pace with several real documented gunfights as Bill and his Regulators battle it out with the opposing faction on the streets of Lincoln. Overall this is a well-researched and fast-paced offering for boys 11+.