Publication Date: March 17, 2008
Better World Books Reading Challenge – A Book that Rewrites History
Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride by Michael Wallis is a retelling of William Antrim’s story based on what is known of his life from cradle to grave and a look at the events that contributed to his outlook on life and interaction with the growing western population.
Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride by Michael Wallis is a wide look at the life of the man known as Billy the Kid. In his quest to plot the life of the famous outlaw, Wallis is very clear to outline for readers the unknowns. Based on resources and interviews, the author gives the options and if there is likely truth, lays them out. The problem arises in how little is known of Billy the Kid’s life even down to not being sure about his real name; so facts are thin on the ground until the outlaw’s later life.
One does not expect a biography to be an exciting roller coaster ride, but Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride by Michael Wallis is uncommonly dry. With each event and every new personality, Wallis meanders through the West, giving them background and depth but also describing the landscape and eventually wandering around to the way their path crossed the Kid’s. No matter how briefly mentioned, there are pages and pages of exposition in which all history is covered until this reader wonders how the central character fits into that particular moment in time. I was interested to learn that tumbleweeds were an import. By the time readers make their way to the end, the description of the Kid’s death by lead “poisoning” seems incredibly sudden and the brevity not in character with the rest of the book. The author has a kinship with his subject having met a descendant of the Kid’s killer, Pat Garrett, who held the gun that shot the fatal round — so you’d think that there would be more excitement and connection between author and subject. But, Wallis seems more interested in the politics of the West. I have to admit, I’m is still not sure why so many pages are devoted to PT Barnum.
As an overall history, Wallis does seem to cover what is known as facts about the life of William Antrim/William Bonney/Billy the Kid, though what he presents as facts would make for a much shorter read. Wallis does go out of his way to highlight how liked the Kid was. He’s presented as an accidental bad guy in a number of respects and as much as Wallis can’t nail down life facts, he certainly can’t speak to the operation of the Kid’s mind and his intent when starting out as a bit of a rapscallion and making his way to a killer. From sick mother to absentee stepfather to doing what must be done to survive, there are a lot of reasons the central character may have taken the path but from Wallis’ pen, the possible reasons become excuses.
Wallis is incredibly well read on the lore of Billy the Kid and quotes other biographies and myth-making novels with abandon, all of which seem to be more engaging than Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride by Michael Wallis. Had I not been recliner bound, recovering from abdominal surgery, this actually might have been one of the few books to be set aside unfinished.
Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride by Michael Wallis is the book for you if you’re looking for a deep dive into the western world with a subplot of Billy the Kid.
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