Richard W. EtulainMar 7, 2022
Thunder in the West
The Life and Legends of Billy the Kid
University of Oklahoma Press 2020
Henry McCarty, aka William H. Bonney, aka Billy the Kid, is one of the most well known figures from the American West. His short life made an outsized impact on American folklore and popular culture, and his story has been told and retold for a century and a half after his death. In Thunder in the West: The Life and Legends of Billy the Kid (U Oklahoma Press, 2020), historian Richard Etulain, emeritus professor at the University of New Mexico, tackles both the real life story and the ever-changing legend of Billy the Kid. From his largely unknown early life to the critical year of 1878 to his death at the hands of Pat Garret in 1881, Etulain explains both the life and the context of Billy, and spends an equal amount of time on the young mans afterlife. In novels and movies, Billy's story lives on to the present day, a tale of romance, youth, and violence that maintains its tragic appeal. Half academic monograph and half narrative romp, Thunder in the West is bifurcated into two equally important sections, much like Billy the Kid himself.
Dr. Stephen R. Hausmann is an assistant professor of history at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.