Gardner authors new ‘Kid’ book; release event Feb. 9 at GoG Club

       The businessmen from Taos want you to go down.

The cover of the new book by area historian Mark Gardner.
Westside Pioneer photo

Mark Gardner (right) and performing partner Rex Rideout are shown playing outside the Galloway Cabin at Rock Ledge Ranch in 2005. The duo are slated to get together for a few songs during the release event for Gardner's non-fiction work on Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett Feb. 9 at the Garden of the Gods Club.
Westside Pioneer file photo

       So they've hired Mr. Garrett to force you to slow down…
       Billy, they don't like you to be so free.
       - Bob Dylan, 1973, sound-track to the movie, “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.”
       Billy the Kid as misunderstood cowboy makes for a good story, but Mark Gardner's new book deals in facts, so readers should be forewarned: They might even wind up liking Billy Bonney's killer more than the historically romanticized outlaw by the time they finish “To Hell on a Fast Horse: Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, and the Epic Chase to Justice in the Old West.”
       Gardner, an area historian and musician who has worked with and performed at the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site for many years, plans to discuss “Fast Horse” and play some Western songs with musical partner Rex Rideout at the book's “exclusive Colorado Springs release event” Tuesday, Feb. 9 at the Garden of the Gods Club, a press release states Also including lunch and a hardcover copy of the book for each attendee, the event will begin at 11:30 a.m. Tickets are $65 and available in advance by calling the Pikes Peak Library District at 531-6333, x2253.
       The book (259 pages, plus 55 in appendices in a review copy) is being published by HarperCollins, a major New York company. The 75,000-copy printing is by far the largest for Gardner as an author. “I've written a lot of books over the years for university presses, but you don't make a lot of money from that,“ Gardner said in a recent interview. “I finally hit on something that New York publishers thought could do well.”
       His original idea was a biography just of Garrett, but his literary agent “suggested a dual biography of the Kid and Garrett,” which had not been done before, Gardner explains on the book's website. “It's impossible to tell Garrett's story without writing about the Kid, and you can't tell the Kid's story without bringing in Garrett. They truly made each other.”
       The research and writing took three years, including weeks at a time travelling and studying throughout New Mexico, where the featured parts of the story (the Garrett/ Bonney confrontation in 1881 and the murder of Garrett in 1908) occurred. He even believes he has solved the longstanding mystery of who really killed Garrett. A small-type listing of all his resource materials at the end of “Fast Horse” requires 14 pages.
       The overall work reveals “The Kid” as a largely self-centered criminal who stole horses, cattle and personal property whenever the spirit moved him and killed men at times with scant provocation. Yet he was also smart, charismatic and fearless. By contrast, Garrett was honest, forthright, a relentless manhunter and equally fearless, but had personal issues of his own, including gambling and drinking, which contributed to his indebtedness when he died.
       As Garrett's life went on, he had to deal with people who saw him as a kind of villain for shooting Bonney. For example, Gardner notes that while many songs have been written about the outlaw (including those by Dylan), there's never been a tune about the lawman. Asked whether he, as a song composer, plans to change that fact, Gardner revealed that he has written a “ballad about Pat Garrett.” However, he added, he's not sure he feels “brave enough” yet to sing it.

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