Share This Article

To Hell on a Fast Horse: Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, and the Epic Chase to Justice in the Old West

by Mark Lee Gardner, William Morrow, New York, 2010, $26.99.

Mark Lee Gardner  might be asking for trouble. His dual biography of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett is bound to spark passionate debate among Western historians and Old West buffs. In his lively and well-researched book, Gardner argues that Billy the Kid overpowered James Bell and shot him with the deputy’s own revolver during his famous escape from the Lincoln County Courthouse in 1880. (Others believe someone stashed a pistol for the Kid in a privy.) Gardner also claims the Kid was armed with a revolver (not just a butcher’s knife) when Garrett shot him dead in Fort Sumner in 1881. And his choice for Garrett’s assassin in 1908 is sure to stir up a hornet’s nest. Of course, the lives (and deaths) of Billy and Pat have long fostered stimulating conversations.

After the release of such successful tomes as Michael Wallis’ Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride and Leon C. Metz’s outstanding Pat Garrett: The Story of a Western Lawman, what more can be added to the Kid/Garrett legend? Actually, To Hell on a Fast Horse, the first dual biography of the Kid and Garrett, unearths obscure accounts to provide a fresh look at an old story, and Gardner knows how to keep a story moving. The Colorado-based author is an accomplished Old West singer/performer, as well as a noted Western historian. To Hell on a Fast Horse won’t replace Metz’s Garrett biography as the standard, and there may never be a definitive biography on Billy, but this is an excellent addition for the myriad Kid/Garrett bibliophiles.


Originally published in the June 2010 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here.