Billy The Kid: The Legend of El Chivato
Well-researched and impeccably detailed, Billy the Kid illuminates the complexities of the Lincoln County War in New Mexico Territory in the 1870s, and follows the infamous outlaw’s career until his death at the age of 21. The book’s greatest strength is in its portrayal of Billy himself. Fackler’s outlaw is a creature of great charm. He’s the laughing gunslinger, the boy/man easy with women, a wild western spirit who dreads chains and cages. You think you know the kind, but then Fackler warps the stereotype by granting the Kid both virtue and vulnerability. He’s loyal to those who show him kindness. He’s a natural leader. He respects individual choice.
This is a l-o-o-o-o-n-g book, with tiny type, yet the author unfurls the tale with such skill that this reviewer forgave her for the eyestrain. Fackler comes down firmly on the side of Billy, depicting his actions as “a battle of individual rights against the machine of big business,” and stating that he was “sacrificed” because he refused to submit to the political and social order of his time. This is a contentious point, but whether you buy the concept of the Kid as a misled rebellious young man caught on the losing side of a range war, or whether you believe him to be a no-good, cattle-rustling murderer, you’ll enjoy Fackler’s deep characterization, skillful manipulation of multiple plot threads, and overall rich storytelling.