Monday, September 15, 2014

Billy the Kid's Last Ride

Really good westerns seem to be few and far between these days. But I have a good Facebook friend--a lawyer who lives in New Mexico who knows pretty much everything there is to know about Billy the Kid. Billy's life was not a happy one and rather short lived. Here is my review of my friend, John Aragon's book: "Billy the Kid's Last Ride ." 

This really is so much more than just about Billy the Kid, although he makes a wonderfully sympathetic, albeit flawed main character. It’s a true saga of the west and is wonderful in its scope.

In spite of the violence, I enjoyed reading John Aragon’s fascinating version of Billy’s life, which provides the reader with a different perspective on what made the young man the bad dude he was. Mr. Aragon, a trial lawyer, is able to take this flawed young man and make him a likeable character who stuck by his friends. He also shows how the circumstances of his life forced Billy off the narrow path and into a life of crime. One has to feel empathy for the lad. As I read, there were so many places where I wished his life had taken a different turn—that  he could have pursued his dream to ride south to Mexico, with the woman he loved, and live peacefully ever after.

I was 15 years old when I first saw the movie “The Outlaw.” starring Jane Russell who was quite famous at the time. The man who played Billy the Kid was a virtual unknown, but he was extremely good looking, and I had a crush on him for a long time. Consequently, although history has often told us that Billy was a bad dude, I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for him.

Mr. Aragon’s wonderfully descriptive narrative transports us into the sun-filled, blue-sky country of southwestern United States. His settings carried me back to the four trips that my husband and I made through Arizona and New Mexico. I remembered how much I loved the terrain of that dry, pinion-studded and mesa filled land. There’s even a special smell to it.

I also liked how the author interweaves the story of the milquetoast, New York reporter, Percival and his search to know Billy as well as his obsession with Rosa. It adds comedy and breaks up the tension of the constant violence in Billy’s life. Without giving too much away, I can tell you that the episodes with the steer outside the outhouse, and the encounter with the rattlesnake while Percival goes about his “business” were hilarious.

Mr. Aragon is a gifted writer and I think we will be seeing more of his work.

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