To Hell on a Fast Horse: The Untold Story of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett

To Hell on a Fast Horse: The Untold Story of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett

by Mark Lee Gardner


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“So richly detailed, you can almost smell the gunsmoke and the sweat of the saddles. ”
 —Hampton Sides, New York Times bestselling author of Ghost Soldiers


No outlaw typifies America’s mythic Wild West more than Billy the Kid. To Hell on a Fast Horse by Mark Lee Gardner is the riveting true tale of Sheriff Pat Garrett’s thrilling, break-neck chase in pursuit of the notorious bandit. David Dary calls To Hell on a Fast Horse, “A masterpiece,” and Robert M. Utley calls it, “Superb narrative history.” This is spellbinding historical adventure at its very best, recalling James Swanson’s New York Times bestseller Manhunt—about the search for Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth—as it fills in with fascinating detail the story director Sam Peckinpah brought to the screen in his classic film Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061368295
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/08/2011
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 325
Sales rank: 212,101
Product dimensions: 7.72(w) x 5.42(h) x 0.82(d)

About the Author

Mark Lee Gardner is the author of To Hell on a Fast Horse and Shot All to Hell, which received multiple awards, including a Spur Award from Western Writers of America. An authority on the American West, Gardner has appeared on PBS’s American Experience, as well as on the History Channel, the Travel Channel, and on NPR. He has written for the Los Angeles Times, True West, Wild West, American Cowboy, and New Mexico Magazine. He lives with his family in Cascade, Colorado.

Table of Contents

Ghost Stories 1

1 Facing Justice 4

2 Trails West 38

3 War in Lincoln County 76

4 A New Sheriff 122

5 Outlaws and Lawmen 150

6 The Kid Hunted 174

7 Facing Death Boldly 202

8 The Darkened Room 221

9 Both Hero and Villain 258

10 Another Manhunt 285

11 Unwanted Star 313

Epilogue 362

Acknowledgments 379

Notes 387

Resources 481

What People are Saying About This

David Dary

“A masterpiece! Mark Gardner’s dual biography of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett cuts through the myth to tell the real story of two real figures in the Wild West. Gardner’s scholarship is superb. This work can only be called a classic.”

Robert M. Utley

“Incredibly deep research combines with the talents of a fine historian and writer to produce superb narrative history. The true character and relationship of these two iconic westerners emerge to suppress myth and correct more than a century of tomes laden with bad history.”

Hampton Sides

“The double-helix relationship between Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett is one of the abiding fascinations of the West. No one has come closer than Mark Lee Gardner to capturing their twin destinies and their inevitable final can almost smell the gunsmoke and the sweat of the saddles. ”

Customer Reviews

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To Hell on a Fast Horse 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
glauver More than 1 year ago
Gardner does a fine job re-telling a oft-told story. He is compassionate both to Billy and his nemesis Garrett. The Kid was a cold-blooded killer but he was more than that and Pat tried his hand at many occupations after taking off his badge. Gardner recounts both lives well but really shines when he focuses on the famous manhunt. He doesn't miss the ironies of the sheriff's long downhill slide before his own violent death. There will be many more books, novels, and movies about this pair but this account is close to definitive.
JAIMEnm More than 1 year ago
Mark Lee Gardner brings to life the true story of Sheriff Pat Garrett, who killed the legendary bandit Billy the Kid. Gardner also delves into the Kid's background, much of which is still the stuff of legend. As a young Boy Scout, I developed an association with Pat Garrett: I tended his grave in the Oddfellows Cemetery, Las Cruces, New Mexico. I knew one of his daughters, Pauline, as a rather cranky old lady who owned some storefronts on Main Street. But those bits of history are quite incidental to Gardner's captivating account of the Sheriff and the Kid. A great read from cover to cover! P.S. Hampton Sides and Robert M. Utley, excellent historians themselves, give "To Hell On A Fast Horse" glowing recommendations.
RandyStafford on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What do you know about Pat Garrett?Probably not much more than that he killed Billy the Kid. (Some would even argue that, but Gardner is decidedly not in that camp.) Billy is one of the key foundations of New Mexico tourism. He's the subject of novels, songs, movies, and a ballet. Every jail break of the Kid's is commemorated with a plaque, his grave well maintained. Garrett's grave isn't. People do DNA tests more than 100 years after the event to prove the Kid didn't die in 1881. No one much remembers Garrett's murder, a far more mysterious and interesting death than the Kid's. The Kid had imposters. Garrett never did.Part of that may have been the name. If William Bonney aka William Antrim aka the Kid aka Henry McCarty hadn't been rebranded as Billy the Kid seven months before his death, both men would have ended up as obscure historical figures. The Kid was already famous but, when Garrett instinctively shot him in that dark room, he was dragged into history's spotlight with Billy.Frankly, I almost didn't read this book. The Kid has never been that interesting to me. However, I thought there might be some coverage of the Lincoln County War. There is - but only in relation to Billy's role. The subtitle, vaguely hinting at a detailed look of Garrett's pursuits of Billy, isn't all that tempting . And, fortunately, it isn't all that appropriate either. This is, in fact, the first dual biography of both men.Gardner concisely, clearly, with just a dash of folksy prose and wry humor, presents both lives. Both men killed at early ages - Garrett before he was ever a lawman. Both were attractive to women. And while Billy attended Garrett's second wedding, the men were not friends - or enemies - before Garrett went after the Kid in an official capacity. And both were, of course, cool under fire.With a lithe frame better suited to climbing up chimneys than the rigors of punching cows, the Kid comes across as neither a psychopathic killer nor an innocent driven to outlawry by the Lincoln County War. But, as Gardner argues, he developed an increasingly casual attitude toward dealing out violence as time went on. But he was generous - he stopped to pay for some rope after riding out of town in the wake of a double murder he committed breaking out of the Lincoln County jail.But it was Garrett I found more fascinating, especially his life as a man on the make in the 26 years between shooting the Kid and his own violent death. Besides manhunting, he tried real estate, horse breeding, collecting custom dues, orchard development, and ranching. He was a gambler at heart whether with cards or business speculation. Nothing seemed to work very well though. The bills piled up. The debt collectors, oddly, didn't - perhaps intimidated by his potential for violence and his law license. He loved his wife and eight children but spent a great deal of time away from them often with a woman only known as Mrs. Brown.And just as fascinating as Garrett and the Kid are the other lives woven with theirs in a state where theft and killing were a path to high office. New Mexico at this time was a place where complex, shifting alliances waged literal and figurative war on each other with money, lawyers, and often bullets. Men went from assassin to lawmen and back, where the military was corrupted (the Posse Comitatus Act forbidding military enforcement of civilian law comes out of the Lincoln County War), where a governor turned bestselling author reneged on a promised pardon, where an attorney who may have hired out murders ends up as Secretary of Interior, and where a man who knew Billy as a boy ends up ghost writing Garrett's autobiography.In short, even if you don't have any interest in the Kid, Gardner tells a good, fascinating story of a place and its people and the almost forgotten Garrett. If you are interested in the Kid, Gardner lays his life out fairly and with interest.
cmbohn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Themes: crime and justice, a Western, law and order, outlaw societySetting: New Mexico, mostly, also Texas and ArizonaThis is sort of a dual biography of Billy the Kid, also known as William Bonney, Henry Antrim, and Kid Antrim, and Sheriff Pat Garrett, the man who swore to bring the Kid in. And he did, but it wasn't quite as easy as it sounded. The Kid was a legend for getting himself out of tight spots. But Garrett was determined.This book explores (sometimes at a little too much length) the conditions that existed in the Old West, the cattle wars, the buffalo raids, and the social structure with the Mexican or Hispanic population and the Anglos. It was an interesting build up, but it made it a little tedious to keep track of all the bit players. The book was more interesting in the play between to the two main characters and at the end, when it covered the third act, the beginning of the legend surrounding Billy the Kid and what happened to Pat Garrett afterward. It was a fun story, but it could have been a little better. 3.5 stars
drneutron on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
New Mexico Territory in the late 19th century was a pretty rough place. In the late 1870s, a young man named Billy Bonney, AKA Henry McCarty, AKA Henry Antrim, got involved in a war between two cattle ranching factions in Lincoln County, New Mexico. Billy was involved in several killings, resulting in his spending the next several years on the run surviving by cattle rustling, gambling, and depending on the kindness of friendly ranchers. In 1880, a former buffalo hunter named Pat Garrett was elected sheriff of Lincoln County on a pledge to rid the area of rustlers. His first priority - track down and arrest Bonney, now known almost exclusively as The Kid or Billy the Kid. For the next year and a half or so, Garrett chased Billy around New Mexico and western Texas - Billy turned out to be pretty good at escaping from custody. Eventually, Garrett tracked Billy to Fort Sumner, where he surprised and shot Billy. Garrett spent the rest of his life living up to (or living down!) his reputation as the killer of Billy the Kid.Mark Lee Gardner's To Hell on a Fast Horse is a dual biography of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett. It's a decent enough retelling of events - especially given the uncertainties in Billy's history. I wish, though, that Gardner had spent more time on the greater sociological and political issues of the time and place, rather than the details of the KId's roaming around. Gardner's best work comes when he's discussing how Billy's killing affected Garrett's life and how Billy's myth grew.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The men who were Billy the Kid and Pat Garret come alive in this book . Some good in Billy and some bad in Pat .But Billy was an outlaw and Pat a late 19th century law man.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Billy is killed in the first half of the book, and then everything else in related to Pat Garrett. Didn't finish it. Book should have been a biography on Pat Garrett, because Billy is just another part of the cast of characters in the story.
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Andrew-j-Ferrell More than 1 year ago
A fine job telling this tale. It kept me interested and read more like a novel than History without loosing its purpose as a non-fiction account.
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cmp53 More than 1 year ago
This part of American History is one that I probably know the least about. This book provided some great insight into what life was like in the Wild West. Up until now, Billy the Kid was a fictious character...this book brought him to life. Definitely enjoyed it.
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khl More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I found it to be balanced all around the issues of Billy the Kid and the events of his life. History teaches us that few folks are truly hero's or truly villains. This book balanced these issues very well. I will give this book to others and it will be re-read from my library regularly.