Wildest of the Wild West: True Tales of a Frontier Town on the Santa Fe Trail, by Howard Bryan, narrated by Jim Terr, 5 hours, 39 minutes, HookintoHistory.com, 2019
New Mexico journalist Howard Bryan (1920–2011) was perhaps best known for his Albuquerque Tribune history column “Off the Beaten Path.” He was also the author of seven books, including Incredible Elfego Baca: Good Man, Bad Man of the Old West (recipient of a 1993 Spur Award from Western Writers of America) and this rousing 1986 work, Wildest of the Wild West, which is as fine a listen as it is a read. The subject is Las Vegas, New Mexico Territory, which to this day remains in the shadow of such Wild West towns as Tombstone, Arizona Territory; Deadwood, Dakota Territory; and Dodge City, Kan. Bryan’s 1986 book did give a historical boost to this Las Vegas (its celebrated Nevada namesake wasn’t officially a city until 1905), and this reading of the book by actor/singer/video producer and native son Jim Terr should serve as a booster shot.
Some of the best-known characters of the frontier played a part in the story of Las Vegas, a settlement established by a Mexican land grand in 1835. Among other figures, the list includes Kit Carson, Stephen Kearny, Billy the Kid, Jesse James and Mysterious Dave Mather. The railroad reached Las Vegas in 1879, bringing with it murderers, robbers, tramps, prostitutes and, most noticeably, the Dodge City Gang (a group of gamblers and gunfighters who came from Kansas to both enforce and break laws in Las Vegas). That in turn triggered the rise of vigilantes fond of throwing “necktie parties” (making use of a windmill in the town plaza). This audiobook would be ideal for any Wild West fan on a long car trip—for example, covering more than half the driving time from Las Vegas, Nev., to Las Vegas, N.M.