Archive for Billy the Kid

Year End Book Report: The Best Books I Read in 2016

Posted in Batman, books, comic books, movies, pop culture, Star Wars with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 12, 2017 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

Here I go, writing another one of these year end round up articles that I’m shocked to be writing every year. 2017. CRAZY. What a ride 2016 was. Hopefully 2017 will give us a bit of a break.

This past year was an interesting year for my book/comics list.  After so many years of logging my books and comics reading via Google Spreadsheet, I actually converted my logs over to an online data tool called Airtable. It’s similar to Access in that it is a relational database but the user entry interface is very simple to create and similar to Excel. Plus being able to link specific information between tables really helps in cross referencing and spelling.  You have no idea how many times I misspelled author names throughout my logs.

Here’s what my book log looks like now on Airtable.  I’ve converted all my logs back to when I first started in 2007.

airtable_books1

The blue colored fields in the screenshot are actually linked to another table.  I was able to also create the Rating field on the right with different color coded ratings to make it easy at a glance to see what is going to make my year end list and what isn’t.  Plus, Airtable makes all of this data entry even easier with a nice app for my iPhone or iPad that makes it easy to log entries on the go.  Google Sheets had one as well but Airtable’s works better.

So that’s all the behind the scenes stuff.  I had a better year for novels.  I was able to pick 5 this year.  Again, comics were booming and I had a tough time paring down to 5.  But I did it.

So, without further ado, here’s the list!

Books


The Old Man and the Sea (1952) – Ernest Hemingway – I don’t read classics as often as I used to.  I really need to remedy that.  There are two reasons why I read this.  #1, it was featured in the movie The Equalizer starring Denzel Washington as a book he’s reading. #2, Steph checked it out from the library with a bunch of other books and I, on a whim, picked it up to read.  It’s actually really good.  I quite enjoyed it.  I’m probably not going to pick up any other Hemingway, but I’ll definitely try to read more classic lit this coming year.  I’ve been wanting to re-read Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, so maybe I can get that done.


Steve Jobs (2011) – Walter Isaacson – I’ve now read two of Isaacson’s famous biographies and let me say that I’m hooked. Back in 2014 I read his biography of Benjamin Franklin and it nearly made my year end best of list.  This one about Apple founder Steve Jobs actually cracks the list. It’s not only a great portrait of a complicated man, but it’s also a great look at the beginnings of our technological age we live in now.  I would love for Isaacson to tackle Bill Gates in a full book, but I’m not sure that’ll happen.  Isaacson did write a book called The Innovators that really digs into the people who created the computer and the Internet; going as far back as Alan Turing and jumping forward to people like Larry Page and Bill Gates.  That will probably be next on my Isaacson reading list and the closest I’ll get to a full Gates biography by him.


Star Wars: Catalyst – A Rogue One Novel (2016) – James Luceno – The “New Canon” of Star Wars books since Disney has taken over has been very…hit or miss.  Since those books started in Fall 2014, only one has made my year end list.  And honestly, I think that one novel (Star Wars: Tarkin), also written by James Luceno, would work perfectly as a side-quel to this book.  This is the written prequel to the movie Rogue One and it’s pretty great.  It digs deep into the relationship between Galen Erso and Director Krennic.  It also explores a bit more the rivalry between Krennic and Tarkin all while adding in backstory to how the Death Star was built and how it works and what they use to power the planet killing laser.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.


Magic Kingdom for Sale–Sold! (Landover series Book 1) (1986) – Terry Brooks – I talked about this book earlier in my High Fantasy Month article back in March.  It’s a different setup for a fantasy series and I really enjoyed it.  I had bought the collection of the first three books in the series, but I’ve not delved into the second book yet.  However, it’s on the plan for this year.

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The Real West: Kenner’s failed western toy line from 1980

Posted in 80s, Billy the Kid, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , on January 15, 2013 by Paxton

LEB

I’m a big fan of westerns.  Movies, books, comics, toys.  Whatever.  If you listen to episode 68 of the Nerd Lunch podcast, you will hear me lamenting the lack of good western toy lines on shelves today.  The best western toy line is probably the Gabriel Lone Ranger toys from the 70s and 80s.  Most especially the large scale toys and accessories.  Here’s an ad for a western town for the Gabriel 3-3/4″ Lone Ranger toys.

Gabriel Lone Ranger

Gabriel also released a 12″ scale Lone Ranger series of figures.  Both were extremely popular and set the standard for well done western figures.  However, there aren’t many other toy lines that even tried to create western figures, other than generically packed cowboy figures on sale in the discount aisles of Wal-Mart.  See the True Heroes Wild West Action Figure Playset 5-Pack.  To be fair, the True Heroes stuff is actually fairly well made for generic figures.  Check out the True Heroes Wild West Sheriff’s Town Playset.  Like I said, actually not that bad.  But it’s generic.  I want a figure line that’s more specific.

The toys I actually want to talk about today I briefly mentioned in the latest episode of Nerd Lunch.  I consider it to be the closest we’ll get to an actual, well realized “Legends of the Old West” action figure line.  It was first made by Kenner in 1979 as a tie in to the movie Butch and Sundance – The Early Days.  The movie was a prequel to the classic 1969 western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, respectively.  The movie had a nice compliment of stars.  Tom Berenger played Butch, William Katt played Sundance, Peter Weller played La Fors, Christopher Lloyd played Carver and Brian Dennehy played Hanks.  The studio had high hopes for the movie and created a toy line featuring figures of the characters.  Here are pics of the carded figures of the title characters.

Butch Sundance
(via Toys You Had)

There were also figures of La Fors, Sheriff Bledsoe and Hanks.  Kenner also produced the hero’s horses, Bluff and Spurs, as well as an awesome armored stagecoach called The Mint Wagon.  Here they are in a Kenner catalog from 1980.

Horses and Mint Wagon
(Via Plaid Stallions)

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Walking in the footsteps of Billy the Kid and other roadtrips I want to take

Posted in Americana, Billy the Kid, pop culture, roadtrip with tags , , , , , , , on August 3, 2012 by Paxton

Billy the Kid Week

Brian has given us a good assignment this week. He wants us to plan the ultimate pop culture roadtrip. I have already gone on several geeky roadtrips in my life thanks to having been a traveling IT consultant for about 8 years.  I’ll start chronicling more of those soon. I already talked about two Star Wars Roadtrips that I’ve taken (Star Wars Celebrations I and II).  But I think Brian’s idea is to plan a road trip that you want to take.

There are several I could do, but one is definitely at the top.  And I’ve discussed it before, both on the Nerd Lunch Podcast and here on the site.  I want to walk the Billy the Kid Trail in New Mexico.

Billy the Kid

I’ve been a huge fan of Billy the Kid since high school.  I’ve read a ton of books about him (and other gunslingers).  Plus, my wife is from New Mexico, so it’s totally doable.  There are several places in New Mexico pertaining to the famous outlaw.  The biggest would probably be the Lincoln State Monument in Lincoln, NM.

Lincoln Lincoln County Courthouse
(Via Jeff Arnold’s West)

The little town of Lincoln has been preserved almost exactly as it was back in Billy’s day. You can still visit the courthouse in which he was imprisoned and then famously shot his way out of, killing two deputies in the process.  There’s also the Wortley Hotel which was once owned by Pat Garrett, the man who shot Billy.  The hotel was also the final dining place of Bob Ollinger, who was one of the deputies Billy killed in his getaway.  Not only would this place be awesome for Billy the Kid buffs, but the town is almost exactly how it was in the Old West.  It would be great to see how things were back then as I’m fascinated with the time period.

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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.

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.