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Michael Wallis is the best-selling author of Route 66, Billy the Kid, Pretty Boy, and David Crockett. He hosts the PBS series American Roads. He voiced The Sheriff in the animated Pixar feature Cars. He lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The boy who would become Billy the Kid (1859-1881) was born Henry McCarty, perhaps in the Irish immigrant wards of New York City. Not much is known about his parents, and it's difficult to trace his whereabouts until his family turned up in Silver City, Colo., in the early 1870s. Both the facts and the legend pick up in 1877, when Henry-already known to some under the alias Kid-shot a man who was bullying him and began a life on the run. Wallis's reconstruction of the Kid's exploits is engrossing. But even more, Wallis (Route 66) shows Billy the Kid as a product of his era, one of profound social dislocation. Billy the Kid was, indeed, only the most legendary of a generation of "desperate men" who knew how to handle a gun. At the same time, a new kind of sensationalist journalism was being created, and reporters were more than happy to contribute to the creation of a myth. Wallis, the host of PBS's new American Roads, writes clean prose, occasionally enlivened by a particularly lovely turn of phrase ("the liquid rustle of cottonwood leaves"). Over the decades, countless books have been written about the infamous outlaw, and this is surely one of the best. 60 illus. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
"It is a moral tale of a kind, to which Michael Wallis has done full justice." Frank McLynn, Literary Review "Following Wallis's search for the real Billy the Kid is a fascinating experience." Elmore Leonard"
Historian Wallis (Route 66) turns his attention to Billy McCarty (1859-81), a.k.a. Billy the Kid, carefully separating fact from myth-a difficult task, since the myth has all but obscured the facts. Drawing on archival sources and interviews as well as documents and secondary works, Wallis digs beneath the surface, clearly identifying what is known or probable and presenting the reasonable alternatives for what is conjecture. He emphasizes the politics of the Gilded Age and how it affected the frontier and Billy in particular. This well-written and engaging biography is aimed primarily at general readers interested in the West and provides a clear, concise, and reliable account of Billy; Wallis is careful not to make his story so complicated that it confuses readers. Nevertheless, given the extensive research underlying it, the book can stand alongside Robert Utley's more scholarly Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life. Recommended for public and academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/06.]-Stephen H. Peters, Northern Michigan Univ. Lib., Marquette Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.