Why Billy?: visions of America's outlaw kid, 1981-1998
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Stephen Tatum's Inventing Billy the Kid: Visions of the Outlaw in America, 1881-1981 (1982) surveys the huge bibliography of materials relating to Billy the Kid in four phases of American history and relates them to their historical contexts. My study, in essence, adds another chapter to Tatum's book. I find that nonfiction works about Billy the Kid since 1981 fall into three groups: (1) those that depict the Kid as a victim of a violent society and powerful political and economic forces (showing a Poor Billy); (2) those that depict the Kid as a violent criminal of the worst kind (showing a Rotten Billy); and (3) those that approach the Kid in a nontraditional way (showing a Different Billy). Among fiction works, I discuss Larry McMurtry's Anything for Billy (1988), N. Scott Momaday's The Ancient Child (1989), and Rebecca Ore's The Illegal Rebirth of Billy the Kid (1991). All three use the character of Billy the Kid to reflect ideas about the interaction of our society and its past. Overall, these reflect growing concerns about violence in our society and concerns about the way we view our history. They also show that the legend of Billy the Kid is still viable more than a century after his death.
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Includes bibliographical references: leaves 55-57.
Kimbrough, Thomas Matthew (1998). Why Billy?: visions of America's outlaw kid, 1981-1998. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from