Sunday, February 24, 2013

Autobiography of Billy the Kid

This book, The Autobiography of Billy the Kid, by Ralph Estes is interesting in that it tells Billy's story from the Kid's viewpoint. Of course he didn't kill in cold blood those twenty-one men attributed to him or was it twenty-seven or only fifteen. Not guilty, although he does say he killed two or three that needed killing as a result of the Lincoln County War in New Mexico.  The family had moved from Wichita to Silver City, New Mexico, because of his mother's consumption and she got along well for awhile, but it finally killed her. And Henry McArty (later known as Billy the Kid) was relocated to a family named Brown. It didn't take long for him to get in trouble for stealing and he escaped from jail and left for parts unknown at about thirteen years of age. And the story of Billy the Kid begins according to the author.

He ended up in Arizona where he had to kill a man who was on top of him beating him in the face, a bully that picked on him all the time. He took out for New Mexico again where he hoped to get a job herding cattle, since he always wanted to be a cowboy. His stepfather's last name was Antrim, and Billy was called that on occasion. I would tell you how he became Billy the Kid from Henry McArty, but it will better if you read it and more interesting than me telling you.

Most of the book focuses on the Lincoln County war between the McSween people and the Dolan gang. Billy is one of the "Regulators" on the McSween side, actually working on the side of the law. But the law is fuzzy there, since the Dolan gang seem never to get arrested and has the U. S. Army on their side. Billy is the only person indicted in the Chapman murder and he writes to Governor Lew Wallace saying he will be a witness for release from the indictment. Wallace writes him a letter and they are included in the Appendices along with other pertinent content about the Lincoln War. There is never any complaining by Billy about the indictment or other events, so we don't get into his mind in this regard. He doesn't mention all the newspaper articles or wanted posters either. Billy is an easy-going, mostly happy type who gets acquainted with many senoritas and falls in love with one named Mary. And that's where Pat Garrett catches him and kills him. 

Ralph Estes does the Kid justice, at least to my way of thinking, in telling this story and adds to the lore of the Kid. A fine, entertatining, short read of eighty-one pages.

This is an e-book that came out in October 2012 by the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA).     


  1. Some curious choices there. Glossing over his killings sounds like the self-justification and denial of your typical criminal. But I'd expect Billy to be obsessed with Gov. Wallace's promise of a pardon that never came, as well as his notoriety.

  2. His non-pardon is mentioned, even after his meeting with the Gov, but it didn't appear that he dwelled on it overly much, although he felt betrayed.

  3. Sounds like a sharp read, Oscar. I've never been a fan of the Kid but this may shoot some new juice into the story for me.

    1. It may add something to the 20 or so books published about him.

  4. I watched most of a documentary on Billy the other day. No one seems to forget Billy the Kid.