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Forsmark: Revising the Revisionists

Posted on April 20 2010 9:36 am
David Forsmark is the owner and president of Winning Strategies, a full service political consulting firm in Michigan. David has been a regular columnist for Frontpage Magazine since 2006. For 20 years before that, he wrote book, movie and concert reviews as a stringer for the Flint Journal, a midsize daily newspaper.
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To Hell on a Fast Horse:
Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, and the Epic Chase to Justice in the Old West

By Mark Lee Gardner
Morrow, $26.99, 336 pp.

Some things never change.  The New York Times, for instance, can always show sympathy for a cop killer with an excuse.

In 1926, a Times book reviewer criticized The Saga of Billy the Kid, one of the first books on the Kid and Pat Garrett that relied on actual reporting, for presenting Garrett as a hero.  The critic, who apparently had watched a few too many Tom Mix movies, thought the lawman with eight kids to feed should have given Billy “a chance to fight for his life.”

I didn’t know liberals were so into dueling. The statement is doubly ironic since the Kid’s most famous killing was the straight-up bushwacking ambush of the (admittedly corrupt) sheriff of Lincoln County, New Mexico.

Nearly a century later, the Times can still find fault with nearly every police shooting, while it romanticizes cold-blooded cop killers for “standing up to the Man”—especially if their politics are radical.

The story of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid often has been used as sort of a pseudo-Marxist fable– though, unlike Jesse James, John Dillinger and other outlaws who attained such status, the Kid didn’t rob banks.

One of the more infamous accounts of the legend is Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, a glum disaster of a movie that basically killed what was left of the drunken director’s career (plus nearly snuffed out the Western genre itself in the early ’70s).  Peckinpah imagined Garrett as a man who is bitter about being used as a capitalist tool to kill off a young rebel threat who sits around grousing about the greedy businessmen who have destroyed the code of the West.

But the truth comes out in Mark Gardner’s Hell on a Fast Horse: Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, and the Epic Chase to Justice in the Old West. He reports Garrett was an enthusiastic, if not terribly successful, capitalist himself who had invested in and started several large cattle concerns and other enterprises.

And while Billy may have been on the right side in the famed Lincoln County War, it was the only time in his life that the career horse thief and casual killer had any justification for his actions.

Read more at Frontpage Magazine…

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