Archive for Billy the Kid Week

Billy the Kid Week 2011: Review of The Stone Garden: The Epic Life of Billy the Kid

Posted in Billy the Kid, books, pop culture, reviews with tags , , , , on July 15, 2011 by Paxton

Billy the Kid Week

Our final day of Billy the Kid Week.  I am celebrating the 130 year anniversary of Billy the Kid’s death by reviewing a bunch of novels featuring Billy the Kid.  Today’s book is The Stone Garden: The Epic Life of Billy the Kid by Bill Brooks.

The Stone Garden cover

This book is somewhat a sequel to yesterday’s Authentic Life of Billy, the Kid. It is a fictional story about what happened to Billy the Kid after Garrett shot him.  It posits that Garrett actually shot a cow thief named Billy Barlow that night and covered it up.  This book acts as Billy’s journal.  It covers the events of Billy’s life up to the shooting and what happened to him after the shooting as well as if he ever got revenge on Pat Garrett.

I love the idea of this book.  The idea is very similar to another book I read, The Frankenstein Papers by Fred Saberhagen.  It takes an existing work and continues the story from another point of view.  I love that.  However, I didn’t just LOVE this book.  The main problem lies in the structure.  This book’s story is literally all over the place.  Brooks jumps around throughout Billy’s life in a non-linear way.  You’ll hear about an event that happened in one chapter but not see that event until many chapters later.  Plus, half way though the book, the narrator changes to Billy’s girlfriend.  We’ll be discussing Billy’s mother in one chapter, then we’ll see an entire chapter on his friend Charlie and his wife.  It was really hard to get a foot hold on this book’s story with all the jumping around.  And the author kept sticking in poems and quotes from Shakespeare and Lord Byron.  It feels like he was trying to turn this book into literature.  And it’s decidedly NOT.

I don’t know, I really wanted to love this book because the hook is great.  Billy escaped his death and went on living until he was in his 90s.  What happened to him?  But just as I would get into the story, the narrator or the timeline would shift and I would have to readjust.  It was very disconcerting.

I did like how Brooks incorporated passages and events from Garrett’s book.  It was obvious Brooks read that book and built his narrative off the text and events in it.  But, again, the disconcerting way the novel was written really hindered my enjoyment.

So, a recommend?  For western fans and/or Billy the Kid fans, yes, but with a warning, the narrative jumps around a lot.  But it’s a good enough premise to keep you reading.  I never once thought about stopping the book.  It’s funny, when I got this book in the mail from Paperbackswap.com, the cover seemed very familiar to me.  I honestly thought I’d read it.  If I did read it back when I was reading all those western books (early-mid 90s), then I don’t remember it.  At all.  And I probably won’t remember this again in another few years.

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Billy the Kid Week 2011: Review of Pat Garret’s The Authentic Life of Billy, the Kid

Posted in Billy the Kid, books, pop culture, reviews with tags , , , , , on July 14, 2011 by Paxton

Billy the Kid Week

Billy the Kid, aka William H Bonney, aka Henry McCarty, was killed by sheriff Pat Garrett in Fort Sumner, New Mexico 130 years ago today.  All this week I am celebrating the anniversary of Billy’s death by reading and reviewing books about the enigmatic outlaw.

Today I am reviewing the book about Billy.  The main source of most of our information about him.  The book was released within a year after Billy was killed and written by the main who killed him, Sheriff Pat Garret.  That book is called The Authentic Life of Billy, the Kid.  Before I get started, I want to say I’m sorry if this runs a little long.  It’s just such a seminal work in Old West literature and a very important book for me personally because of my enthusiasm for the subject matter.  I’ll try to keep it short, but I may let my enthusiasm get away with me.

An Authentic Life early printing Authentic Life of Billy the Kid orange cover

The two covers above are for one of the original printings of Garrett’s book around 1882 (left) and the more recent printing of the book in the Oklahoma Library Press Western Frontier series (right).  The latter printing being the one I read.  The official title of the book tends to change a bit with each edition.  The title page of the edition I read has An Authentic Life of Billy, The Kid: The Noted Desperado of the Southwest Whose Deeds of Daring and Blood Made His Name a Terror in New Mexico, Arizona and Northern Mexico.  The cover of the earlier edition just has An Authentic Life of Billy the Kid The Noted Desperado of the Southwest.  It was ghost written by Ashmun Upson, a sheriff buddy of Pat.

Death of Billy the Kid by Poe

This book is considered the authority, but many people don’t realize there was another first hand account of Billy’s death.  John Poe, a deputy who rode with Garrett the night Billy was killed, wrote his version of the events of that night.  It was released in Wild World Magazine in 1919 and then collected into a hardcover titled The Death of Billy the Kid in 1933 (cover above). Poe’s account mostly matches up with Garrett’s but there are a few inconsistencies between the two.

I got Garrett’s book off Paperbackswap.com. You can also buy copies from Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com. Or, if you prefer, you can just read it for free on the internet.  I’ve wanted to read this book for years and I thought the 130th anniversary of Billy’s death is as good a time as any.

This book is an interesting read.  It’s fascinating on many levels.  It’s a first hand account of events in the Old West. That alone is interesting.  Plus, it details the events in Billy’s life by someone who knew him and it supposedly details the events of his death by the man who killed him.  However, it’s obvious that this book was a PR move by Sheriff Garrett.  Billy was very popular with the people of New Mexico and the way Garrett supposedly killed Billy in the dark in what can only be called a surprise ambush was certainly frowned upon.  Garrett needed something to “clear the air” and tell his side of the story…however true that side was.  Immediately several things are called into question.  The first half of the book is obviously written by Ashmun Upson in the style of the old “dime novels”.  The events in Billy’s life are portrayed in fantastic style.  Plus, many of the supposed events are suspiciously similar to tales of outlaw daring-do from other dime novels.  Some of the wording of the stories isn’t even changed from stories printed in the 1840s.  The last half is written in straight forward frontier prose by Sheriff Garrett.  He meticulously tells the tell of his hunting down and killing of The Kid.

However, his events and details don’t really mesh up with each other and he contradicts himself several times.  A few days before he kills Billy, Garrett mentions that his party stumbled upon some voices talking in an orchard.  They could also see a shadowy figure walking around but couldn’t identify him.  Garrett would later find out it was, in fact, Billy.  Then, on the night of the killing, Garrett says he couldn’t see Billy’s face but he immediately recognized his voice.  If he could easily recognize just Billy’s voice, why didn’t he in the orchard?

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Billy the Kid Week 2011: Review of Anything for Billy by Larry McMurtry

Posted in Billy the Kid, books, pop culture, reviews with tags , , , , on July 13, 2011 by Paxton

Billy the Kid Week

Day 3, Hump Day, of Billy the Kid Week. I am celebrating the 130th anniversary of Billy the Kid’s death this week by reading a bunch of books about the famous outlaw.

Today’s book is Anything for Billy by Larry McMurtry.

Anything for Billy

I’ve actually read this book before.  I even wrote an article for one of my Weekly Geeks entries back in 2009 about historical fiction and I mentioned reading this book.  After seeing Young Guns in the theater back in 1988, I became obsessed with Billy the Kid and the Old West.  I read tons of books, fiction and non-fiction, about that time period.  I discovered this book in the early ’90s during a vacation with my family.  The back mentioned it was about Billy the Kid, so I read it.  And I really enjoyed it.  When I wrote that 2009 article mentioning this book, I got the bug to read it again.  So I grabbed a copy off Paperbackswap.com and read it again just a month or so ago.

And the book is still good.  It is most definitely not a shoot ’em up western.  It is more a character study of the western gunslinger.  The book is written as the journal of “Sippy”, an author from the East Coast who packs up and moves West when he becomes disillusioned with his life.  He meets up with Billy Bone and Joe Lovelady and tags along with them on several adventures.  They meet several rough and tumble characters and travel to tiny western towns in the middle of nowhere.  It’s a steady, methodically paced journey.  The book is Sippy’s remembrance of his time with Billy.  Sippy even mentions other characters in the book that have gone on and written their own Billy books years after the events in this book and “misremembered” all the events to make themselves look better.  It’s a nice commentary on legends and fame. And that may be the most interesting thing about this book. It’s a deconstruction of myths and legends and how we perceive and create these legends. Also maybe the juxtaposition of the reality of a legend against what people believe about the legend. Very interesting stuff when you think about it.

Anything for Billy

McMurtry chooses an interesting portrayal of Billy.  He’s a terrible shot with a pistol or rifle (which is historically inaccurate).  McMurtry describes him as ugly (also not historically accurate).  And this book’s Billy is also extremely immature and a slave to his own impulses (probably very historically accurate).  However, it’s obvious McMurtry was looking to create his own version of Billy the Kid because while he uses a few historical places in Billy’s life, the characters and events are mostly fiction.

So, did I enjoy it again this second time?  I did.  It’s a fun lazy Sunday western.  And I like how it’s written, with the main character Sippy remembering the events of so long ago and how he can mention what happens to some of the characters many years later.  I did enjoy it and I can recommend it to fans of Billy the Kid or western outlaws. Or anyone that loves a good western. But, go in realizing this isn’t a “shoot em up”, it’s more about the characters than the action.

Billy the Kid Week 2011: Review of The Illegal Rebirth of Billy the Kid

Posted in Billy the Kid, books, pop culture, reviews with tags , , , , on July 12, 2011 by Paxton

Billy the Kid Week

This week I am celebrating the 130th anniversary of the killing of Billy the Kid by Pat Garrett.  I’m reading books that feature either the historical Billy the Kid or a fictional version of Billy the Kid. Yesterday I looked at a comic series featuring the character of Billy the Kid.  Today we look at a science fiction story involving A clone of Billy.

Illegal Rebirth of Billy the Kid

Today’s book is called The Illegal Rebirth of Billy the Kid by Rebecca Ore. I found it during my search for Billy the Kid books and I’d never heard of it. The basic story line seemed interesting enough so I got it off paperbackswap.com and read it a few months ago.

On the surface it sounds awesome. The story takes place in the future. Cloning is legal but heavily policed. A government scientist creates an illegal Billy the Kid clone which escapes, and wrecks havok. Because the clone is illegal, the government sends out assassins to capture or kill it and find out who made it. The clone goes on the run like the real Billy the Kid, receiving help from a clone activist group, until Billy finally confronts his pursuers. But the book doesn’t completely go that route. For starters, we find out pretty early that this clone isn’t actually a clone of Billy the Kid. The clone was grown from generic government clone DNA and given flash memories based partly on historical record and partly on pop culture myth. Immediately that disconnected me. This clone could literally have been anyone and that hindered my enjoyment of the story.

Clone Commandos
These clones would have worked better.

Two, nothing really happens. “Billy” does get help from an activist group, then he has to get a fake id and a job. He is constantly lamenting the fact he’s just a clone and not the actual Billy the Kid. He’s not really “on the run”. He’s in hiding. Notice the difference. One implies action, the other doesn’t. Guess which.  Also, the story does imply that the government will, in fact, send out clone assassins (assassins who are themselves clones) to eliminate potential risks.  Awesome.  But this story only mentions it.  The bad ass subplot of the clone assassin hunting down one of his own kind who happens to be a created copy of one of the most notorious outlaws in American history never happens.  It’s just left to dangle there.  We then get the clone “Billy” working a deal with the government to reveal the scientist that made him in return for protection.  Just not enough there to actually make me care about the characters or what was going on.

I think I see where Ore was trying to go, though.  Maybe using this story as an analogue for societal classes or maybe even racism.  Clones are thought of as not really even human.  They are called meat dogs or meat pigs.  Some even consider them pets.  You also have the clone activist group helping clones get away from abusive owners, much like the Underground Railroad back during the Civil War did for blacks.  A lot of this is just barely under the surface in the story, but I didn’t care because the story was so goddam boring I just wanted it to end.

That pretty much wraps up the longest 210 pages I’ve ever read in my entire life.  This story would probably have worked better in 100 pages.  And maybe a re-write of the ending.  But I can’t recommend it.  I was bored to tears through the majority of the book.

Billy the Kid Week 2011: Review of Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities

Posted in Billy the Kid, comic books, Frankenstein, monsters, reviews with tags , , , , , on July 11, 2011 by Paxton

Billy the Kid Week

Our last Billy the Kid Week was last August when I celebrated the 22nd birthday of the movie Young Guns.  Now, nearly a year later, it’s time for another Billy the Kid Week.  This time, I am celebrating the 130th anniversary of Billy the Kid’s death.  It happened this week back in 1881.  This week, I’ll be reviewing various fiction/non-fiction books featuring Billy the Kid.

For today, I’m beginning Billy the Kid week with a review of the comic book mini-series, Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities.  It was released in 2005 by Dark Horse Comics.

Billy the Kids Old Timey Oddities

The comic is written by Eric Powell who also writes another popular comic, The Goon.  Like most of the Billy fiction I’ll read this week, this comic book assumes that Billy was not killed by Pat Garrett back in 1881.  That he somehow escaped. The comic starts off with a drawing of what looks like an old newspaper article talking about the chase, capture and killing of Billy the Kid (left).  At the top of the article is an image that homages an old dime novel woodcut from 1881 called “Killing the Kid” (right). I thought, historically, that was a nice touch.

billy the kids death killing the kid woodcut

Initially, we see Billy riding a train.  A man named Bill Sproule approaches Billy while on the train.  Of course Billy is suspicious, but Sproule offers Billy a job with his traveling circus, Bill Sproule’s Biological Curiosities.  Billy is reluctant at first, but decides to go with Mr Sproule to see what the job entails.

So, Billy goes to work for another guy’s traveling freak show.  Now, I think it’s weird that the title of the book is Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities.  Like Billy owns the freak show.  That’s actually what I expected.  I guess not.  *shrugs*  Let’s press on, shall we?

The traveling show is populated by a bunch of awesomely freaky characters like a tattooed lady who’s tattoos constantly change to predict the future and a wolf man.  Billy is, of course, stubborn and immature.  He manages to alienate all the “freaks” immediately after meeting them.  Then continues to use “freak” slurs when describing them.  At first, it’s irritating.  Billy just seems like a mean douche.  But as the story goes on, Billy’s edge softens a bit and he helps the group when they get in trouble.

And they do get in trouble.  The group goes looking for a jewel called The Golem’s Heart.  It is owned by none other than Dr Victor Frankenstein.  So the group goes after it and immediately becomes trapped by the mad doctor.  The doctor has been performing ghastly medical experiments on the people in the surrounding town.  He plans on using the freaks in some of these experiments.

Dr Frankenstein comic Dr Frankenstein movie

I love the depiction of Victor Frankenstein in this book (pic on left).  It’s eerily close to Peter Cushing, who portrayed Victor Frankenstein in a bunch of movies for Hammer Films in the ’70s (pic on right).  Just a really nice touch by the artist.

So Victor traps all of the group in his castle and plans to do horrible, horrible experiments on them.  Billy becomes locked in a chest but escapes and helps the group overcome and defeat Frankenstein.  They manage to turn Frankenstein’s mutated creations back on him.

It’s a pretty good book.  I enjoyed the majority of it and the artwork is perfect for the story.  It reminds me of some of the early EC work in Vault of Horror or Tales from the Crypt.  Very cool.  I can honestly recommend it to people wanting a nice, quick, fun read.

Billy the Kids Old Timey Oddities v2
(Via Dark Horse.com)

Last year, Dark Horse released a sequel called Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities and the Ghastly Fiend of London (that’s a lot of title to type).  However, I was not able to track down a copy to read, but it looks pretty awesome.  It looks like a Billy the Kid and freaks vs Jack the Ripper.  When I finally get a copy, I’ll put up a review.  It seems Powell is including his other comic creation, The Goon, as a backup feature to this second volume of Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities.  I look forward to reading this.

Stay tuned, this week on the Cavalcade is full of Billy the Kid as we lead up to the 130th anniversary of the outlaw’s death on Thursday.

Billy the Kid Week 2010: I cast a Billy the Kid vs Dracula remake

Posted in Billy the Kid, Dracula, monsters, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , on August 20, 2010 by Paxton

Billy the Kid Week

So, Billy the Kid Week was last week and I finished it up with a review of the movie Billy the Kid vs Dracula.  This was a movie that looked and sounded terrible, but had a concept that was so completely out of left field (and AWESOME) that I fell head over heels for it.  Unfortunately, the movie lived up to how bad it looked and I gave up an hour into the complete mess of a movie.  However the concept stuck with me and I decided I wanted someone to remake this movie today (or, better yet, in the 80s/90s).  How incredible would that have been?  Something like Young Guns but with a little Lost Boys mixed in?  FANTASTIC.

So, I started to cast my remake of this movie.  I decided I wanted Emilio Estevez as Billy (obviously).  Late 80s or early 90s Estevez would be ideal.  However, if we made it today, I like the idea of an older Billy clashing with the King of the Vampires, too.  Now, for Drac, I really want to say Bela Lugosi, however, Bela died WELL before the ’80s/’90s so I needed someone else that could make a good vampire lord.  After much thought I came up with Sam Neill.  He was a fantastic vampire in Daybreakers and I think he would make a great Dracula. Plus, if we made this movie in the late 80s early ’90s, Neill doesn’t look much different now than he did back then (see him in Hunt for Red October in 1990 or Jurassic Park in 1993).  So, here’s our two protagonists.

Emilio as Billy Sam Neill as Dracula

I am so in love with this movie right now.  I literally would take this movie, move to Connecticut and marry it in a commitment ceremony, then make sweet, sweet love with it on a bear skin rug next to a raging fire until the sun comes up.  That’s right, bear skin rug by the fire love making.  You know I’m seriously in love.  Anyway, I also wanted a female caught between these two guys.  I thought about Angelina Jolie, but she may be too tough and doesn’t really fit into this.  I wanted more of a sweet female character.  My first choice would probably be Gwyneth Paltrow.   The first thing I remember seeing her in was Se7en in 1995.  I loved her in that and I love her now.  That’s my first choice, so I’m going with that.  Besides, 1995 seems like a good year to make this movie now that I think about it.  Gwyneth would be 23 and fresh off Se7en.  Emilio would be a few years past the Young Guns movies and he didn’t appear in any movies in 1995 but appeared in D2: The Mighty Ducks in 1994 and a small role in Mission: Impossible in 1996.  Sam Neill would be two years after his role in Jurassic Park. So 1995 seems like a nice fit for this movie.  Now the poster.

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Billy the Kid Week 2010: Freaky Friday the 13th featuring Billy the Kid, The Three Stooges and Dracula

Posted in Billy the Kid, Dracula, monsters, movies, nostalgia, pop culture, reviews, vampires with tags , , , , , , , , on August 13, 2010 by Paxton

Billy the Kid Week

This is Day 5 of Billy the Kid Week. All week I’ve been reviewing movies featuring the character of Billy the Kid. Here are the previous week’s entries:

Day 0: Young Guns II 20th birthday
Day 1: Howard Hughes’ The Outlaw
Day 2: The Left Handed Gun starring Paul Newman
Day 3: Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
Day 4: Young Guns 22nd birthday

Since today is Friday the 13th, I am dubbing today as Billy the Kid Week’s “Freaky Friday”.  I will review one wacky and one scary movie featuring Billy. The first movie will be the Three Stooges’ epic western, The Outlaws IS Coming. The second movie will be the horror schlockfest Billy the Kid vs Dracula. These movies look like they should be appropriately zany, so let’s get started.

The Outlaws is Coming

Released in 1965, this is the last fully completed film featuring The Stooges. They began filming one more movie, Kook’s Tour, in 1970, but Larry had a stroke before filming was completed and the movie sat unfinished and unreleased for years afterward.

The original title of this movie was The Three Stooges Meet The Gunslingers.  That earlier title sounds reminiscent of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein for a reason as this movie is setup in much the same way. Instead of being a “monster rally” movie featuring a famous comedy team, it’s a “gunslinger rally” movie featuring a famous comedy team. There are 9 famous gunslingers in this movie including Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Wild Bill Hickock, Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Johnny Ringo, Cole Younger, Rob Dalton and Belle Star.  Each of the nine gunslingers were played by popular local Kid-TV hosts of the day.  Other notable stars in this film are Adam West as Kenneth Cabot,  a naive ne’er-do-well who works with the Stooges, the gorgeous Nancy Kovack as Annie Oakley and Henry Gibson as Charlie Horse, the Indian chief’s son.  The movie is even narrated by Paul Frees, known for his voice work on Rocky and Bullwinkle (most notably, Boris Badenov).  So, lots of talent were culled together to make this last movie for the Stooges.  West would go on to Batman the very next year.  Nancy Kovack would go on to several roles in geek classics like Queenie in two episodes of West’s Batman as well as Nona in an episode of the original Star Trek in 1968.

The Gunslingers

In the movie, the Stooges work as photographers and “undercover investigators” at an organization similar to the ASPCA.  They work with West’s Cabot and are sent on an undercover mission to Casper, Wyoming to determine why the population of Bison are dwindling.  They discover that a ruthless cattle baron, Rance Roden, has a group of deadly gunslingers killing off the bison to stir up the Indian population into an uprising that will slaughter the cavalry and put Roden in charge of the government (how the cavalry being defeated puts Rance as ruler of the government is not explained).  Oh, and Roden is selling government weapons to the Indians.  We meet the group of gunslingers in the beginning and learn where their territories are.  For some reason, Billy the Kid is said to be in charge of the Dakota Territory instead of Santa Fe (New Mexico, where Billy spent the majority of his life).  Johnny Ringo is in charge of Santa Fe.  Not a big deal since this is a Stooges movie, but it surprised me.  Anyway, we meet the gunslingers in the beginning, then we really don’t see them again until the end when there’s a big gunfight.  So, Billy the Kid only has dialogue in like two scenes.  Also, he’s played with the temperament of a teenager or child.  He whines and cries whenever he doesn’t want to do something.  Roden’s henchman Trigger Mortis (Get it? It’s a play on Rigor Mortis…haha!) gets most of the screen time for the villains.

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