The Stone Garden: The Epic Life of Billy the Kid

Written by Bill Brooks
Review by Cindy Vallar

Whether psychopathic killer, misunderstood outlaw, or product of the Lincoln County, Nebraska range war (which pitted honest ranchers against corrupt ones), Henry McCarty was a legend known as Billy the Kid. In 1881 Sheriff Pat Garret claimed he killed Billy, but what if he shot the wrong man? That is the story that Billy tells in The Stone Garden, the cemetery where lie all his friends waiting for the day that he truly does die.

Brooks takes a gritty and realistic look at the man behind the legend, but maintains an element of the romanticism that surrounds him. Billy tells the first half of the story while he and Manuella, the woman with whom he lives, relate the second half of his life. Their relationship is a strange combination of love, fear, and hate since she was once the wife of his friend, who died by Garret’s hand while wearing Billy’s hat.

The sudden switch to a second point of view is a bit jarring. Some readers may object to the blunt language and sexual references. At times I found it difficult to determine whether the events being described were happening in the present or the past and who was who. While an interesting tale, I found myself wondering by the end of the book exactly why anyone would consider Billy’s life epic.