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

3.63  ·  Rating Details  ·  772 Ratings  ·  93 Reviews
A sheriff . . .

An outlaw . . .

A legendary showdown.

Billy the Kid—a.k.a. Henry McCarty, Henry Antrim, and William Bonney—was a horse thief, cattle rustler, charismatic rogue, and cold-blooded killer. A superb shot, the Kid gunned down four men single-handedly and five others with the help of cronies. Two of his victims were Lincoln County, New Mexico, deputies killed durin
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published February 9th 2010 by William Morrow (first published January 1st 2010)
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Aug 01, 2012 Melki rated it liked it
Shelves: history, western
I have no problem reading a book about a fictional character who is a scum sucking, murdering, slimy piece of crap. But, when it's a real guy who caused real pain for a lot of people, I kind of lose my taste for it pretty quickly. Maybe that's why it took me 21 days to read this relatively short book, though to be fair - the author does not go out of his way to paint Billy the Kid as a hero.

It's just that everybody else did it for him.

Will Byrnes
People were complicated even in the days of the cowboy. Pat Garrett might have been the standup lawman who trailed Billy the Kid and brought him to justice, but, as Gardner takes pains to note, Garrett had issues of his own, managing to waste the good name he earned in his most famous venture in a series of bad business deals, excessive consumption of alcohol, and an affinity for gambling. The book focuses most of its attention on Garret. William Bonney, among his other aliases, was what we migh ...more
Dec 22, 2014 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought I knew this story better, but Gardner demolishes that notion. But he does it in a way that's far from dry-as-dust history. He maintains an understandable dose of romanticism, especially when it comes to The Kid. There's just not that much known about him, and Billy clearly muddied the waters with lies and half-truths. There are a couple of howlers. I groaned when I read the upcoming confrontation between Billy and Pat Garrett had the makings of a "tragedy for the ages." Oh, come on.

Jerry Smith
Sep 14, 2012 Jerry Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, crime, 2010-read
There has been so much written about Billy the Kid it is interesting to hear an account that links his bio with that of his killer, Pat Garrett.

Billy has taken on legendary, almost heroic status as a romantic outlaw. There seems little doubt that despite his iconic and romantic reputation he was a cold blooded killer, tagged with multiple killings over a relatively short space of time. These killings included lawmen and innocents so he isn't really a charming figure.

Garrett's reputation seems t
Karolinde (Kari)
The book is a fairly interesting look at how Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid's lives overlapped. I would really like to have seen more about the "legendization" of Billy the Kid and the concurrent demonization of Garrett. Gardner brings it up and touches on it slightly, but it doesn't seem to go far enough.

I did find interesting that Garrett was censured by many for not gving Billy the Kid a far fight at his death, which would have been stupid, and yet none of those same critics ever mention the
Joe Chernicoff
Aug 08, 2012 Joe Chernicoff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well before 'little green men' appeared in Roswell, NM, and before atomic bomb testing took place at White Sands, NM, Henry McCarty and Pat Garret created their own explosive scenarios in those Western towns.

Henry McCarty/William Antrium/William Bonney, or, as he was became better known by the name of 'Kid/Billy the Kid, is still one of America's most well-recognized bad men - a Western outlaw who began his ride to hell at a very young age, and who was finally dispatched from the scene by a form
Aug 08, 2014 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lots of books on Billy the Kid but very few on Pat Garrett. What's really sad is the story of Pat Garrett and how the outlaw is remembered more than the lawman. Pat Garrett was murdered near Las Cruces shortly before New Mexico achieved statehood and his murderer never brought to justice. I found the story of Garrett far more fascinating, as well as the capriciousness of justice in New Mexico even after the Lincoln County War. People of wealth and connection routinely got away with murder even w ...more
Gary Null
The old west comes alive in this dual biography of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett. Since the lives of the outlaw and the lawman were so intertwined, it only seems natural that their stories are told concurrently.

This well-researched and heavily annotated account brings a lot of interesting details to light, such as Billy’s escape by climbing up the inside of a narrow, sooty chimney.

It’s not the typical romanticized version of good versus evil. Both characters have strengths and flaws, the distin
Feb 23, 2013 Yoake rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Compré este libro porque la crítica de Hagakure en Hislibris me entusiasmó. También la menciono aquí porque es tan completa que me va a evitar dar muchos datos con el fin de centrarme en mis sensaciones. Al infierno en un caballo veloz es una biografía compartida de Billy el Niño, el forajido más popular del Viejo Oeste, y de su perseguidor y asesino, Pat Garrett. El modo que tenemos de percibir la historia muchas veces no tiene nada que ver con la ciencia de los hechos, y los adjetivos que he u ...more
Christopher Lonero
I would have probably given this 3.5 stars if there was a way how. This is my second Billy the Kid book. The first being "Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride" by M. Wallis. "To Hell on a Fast Horse" differs to Wallis' book in that THFH concentrates on both Billy and Pat Garrett's lives. The book actually goes further into Garrett's life than Billy's it seems which offers an interesting overview of the era. The stories of Billy were very similar to the first book. However, I do think the account on h ...more
Mar 23, 2016 Dale rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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

The name of Billy the Kid is known far and wide as the young desperado of the Lincoln County War in New Mexico. Tales of his daring and speed with a gun have been spun in books, movies, and television shows. He has became a larger than life antihero, a bad guy that people still cheer for, and that Pat Garrett is still accused of murdering.

Behind all the hoopla, who was Billy the
Bob Schmitz
Intensely researched this is an interesting story about Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett the sheriff who hunted down and killed him as well as about the times in New Mexico in the 1870's to 1900.

Quotes I loved from the book:

"I don't think history can possibly be true" Orson Welles

"God created man and Sam Colt made them equal" Western Adage

"Fame is a food that dead men eat." Henry Austin

Billy the Kid was a thief,good with a gun and could ride a horse like a Comanche. He was very likable fellow who
C Baker
Oct 25, 2014 C Baker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Until I read this book I had only read mythological accounts of Billy the Kid, which usually contain nothing of Pat Garrett’s life. Books and movies have mythologized Bill they Kid as a Robin Hood type, happy go lucky outlaw and Pat Garrett is demonized as a cowardly man who shot him down in the dark.

This book dispels those myths and gives a fuller account of the lives of both these men in a well written and documented dual biography.

The book walks through the early life of both men, with Willi
Aug 20, 2014 Brandon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a rather straight ahead account of the intertwining legacy of two of the American frontier’s most legendary figures, made somewhat special by the plethora of original research the author brings to the table. The Acknowledgements and Notes sections together make up at least 1/3 of the book, to give one an idea of the sheer amount of work that went into it.

Because Gardner isn’t really interested in romanticizing these figures, we end up getting a more complete picture of William Henry McC
Chris Young
I finish this book with a renewed appreciation of why people became outlaws in the old west. While pirates had a multitude of exotic locales to live their lives in the people of the old west were pretty much stuck with working cattle, farming, working in stores, mining, (stop me when I get to one that would make you go woohoo) there really is no need. If any of this does it would be because you thought you would be an owner of one of these enterprises. Most people weren't, most then were "pickin ...more
Katherine Addison
This book is the story of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, and what makes it a really good book is that, for Gardner, that story does not end with Billy's death. It isn't a simple story, either. Gardner is very aware of the ethical questions that writers like John Boessenecker avoid and very aware of the forces pulling and pushing against each other in New Mexico in the 1880s. Billy wasn't an outlaw because he was a "badman," although he was certainly not a good man, either. He was an outlaw becau ...more
Clark Hays
Jul 27, 2015 Clark Hays rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heroes, outlaws and the triumph of personal brand

This was a great book about a legendary figure who looms large in the American psyche — Billy the Kid. After meeting his maker at the hands of Pat Garrett, the reputation of the dashing young outlaw took on a larger than death shine elevating him to somewhere just above Bonnie and Clyde and just below Robin Hood. According the author, who seemed to draw mostly from the unvarnished historical record, Billy the Kid was a thief, cold-blooded killer,
Sep 17, 2015 brook rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What is wrong with the following sentence in a factual account of events?

"Bob and Jack faced off, each pointing a gun at each other. Bob realized that Jack had the drop on him, a split second before Bob was shot by Jack."

This is not a quote from the book, but something like it happens time and time again. So does:

"Bill and Ted were alone on the plain. Bill pulled a gun, which Ted wasn't expecting. Luckily, Ted was the fastest gun in the world, ever, and shot bill four hundred and twenty seven ti
Mark Sequeira
Fun, fast read that details both Billy (the Kid) and what happened to Pat Garrett after he killed him. If you've read a billy book you'll like this one. If you haven't, this is a good start. Recommended. Fair.
Kendall Shaw
Aug 01, 2015 Kendall Shaw rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
AMAZING. It's amazing. I could count on one hand the non-fiction books I've read cover-to-cover, and this one blows them all out of the water. I was already interested in the history and wanted to know more about Billy and the Lincoln County War, but I think that even if I hadn't come in with prior interest, I still would've been hooked immediately. This book read like a novel, and I think it's pretty amazing that it did, especially considering how mysterious some of the events that are covered ...more
Sep 20, 2011 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fun, straight forward read about Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett and how forever changed Garrett's life was after bringing Billy the Kid down.
Mar 21, 2012 Ron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read my review at my blog.
Dec 11, 2015 Nicole rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There have been dozens of books written about Billy the Kid, so why pick up To Hell on a Fast Horse? Because of Mark Lee Gardner’s meticulous research which, in my opinion, gives far more substance to this subject than so many others written about the famous outlaw and the sheriff who hunted him down. The last 80 or so pages are all source notes because Gardner seems to have combed through every newspaper, journal, personal diary, and interview that ever mentioned William Bonney, Pat Garrett, an ...more
Aug 05, 2015 J.S. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-america, vine
I heard plenty of Marty Robbins and Western music as a kid since it was the only music my dad really liked, and I remember listening to the sad story of "Billy the Kid," crouched next to the big old stereo cabinet while the records played. For some reason outlaws such as Billy the Kid and Jesse James (along with The Red Baron) loomed large in my childhood mind - I'm still not quite sure why.

Mark Lee Gardiner tells the story of Billy the Kid (a.k.a. Henry McCarty, Henry Antrim, and William Bonne
Paul Pessolano
Feb 25, 2011 Paul Pessolano rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We have all heard, read, and seen movies that tell the lives of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett. I venture to say that a great majority of the information was either false or made up. Mark Lee Gardner lies to rest all the lies, fabrications, and glorification of these two men.

History lovers will love the fact that Gardner has done a magnificent job researching the book, and this brought out in the "Notes" and "Resources" section of the book. He also succeeds in making the story not only readable,
Nov 09, 2011 Evan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While the book does an excellent job of sifting fact out of all the fiction surrounding these western icons' lives, it is sometimes a dry and over-detailed history. The good news is that the author is only proving his homework, and overall the book holds your attention.

If, like me, most of what you know about Billy the Kid comes from watching Young Guns several times, then you can get more fact from this and ditch the movie misinformation while still noting that Young Guns did give some rough pl
Jeffery Moulton
I knew very little about Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett going into this book. Of course I'd heard their names before, who hasn't? And I knew that Billy the Kid was a famous outlaw of the American West. But I knew nothing else.

The first half of the book details the lives of the Kid and Garrett, the Kid's eventual killer, in great detail. It does a good job of presenting both as human beings with flaws and noble aspirations alike. Much of the romatic notions of western outlaws and the wild-wild-wes
Sep 23, 2012 Steve rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This book provided a good deal of history on both Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett. It's probably not the most in depth history on each as there is only 257 pages thru the Epilogue. But it appears well researched and footnoted.

It provides a brief history of both men's childhoods (what is known of Billy's anyways) as well as Pat Garrett's life after the Kid. The Kid's killing shows up on around page 175 with rest of the book devoted to Garrett's life afterwards.

For those that only have their Billy t
Don S.
Jun 15, 2011 Don S. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, mymap
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Liza Gilbert
I enjoyed this book a lot more than I expected I would. Gardner did a good job researching the events, and each individual's characteristics, mannerisms, and physical attributes came across clearly. However, I felt like I was reading the book for the strange and true history, and not because of the writing.

In parts the writing was confusing, almost as if Gardner forgot that the public doesn't know the story as well as he does. Names and places blur by, and while Gardner explains them, there isn'
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Mark Lee Gardner grew up in the small town of Breckenridge, Missouri (pop. 500), in the heart of historic Jesse James country. He has written extensively about the American West, on subjects such as the Santa Fe Trail, George Armstrong Custer, Bent's Old Fort, Geronimo, and Billy the Kid. His book on the 1876 Northfield raid by the notorious James-Younger gang, Shot All To Hell, received the Weste ...more
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