The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992 Page: 282

Southwestern Hzstorical Quarterly

Why do we need another exposition of this "short and violent life"? Utley sets
his appreciation of The Kid in the framework of American mythology, noting
that the legend has overwhelmed realty. Yet, "because of the legend, the life
invites scrutiny, to see if it can be compressed into its true human dimen-
sions. .." (p. x).
Separating fact and fancy in this case is exceptionally difficult. One outstand-
ing quality of this investigation is its careful handling of all the material avail-
able. And some of this material, at least among the aficionados, is explosive.
Utley is scrupulously open without sacrificing his own considered opinion. He
reviews all the controversies, whether over sources, times, or interpretations of
who was where, in sixty pages of footnotes comprising 20 percent of the text.
His overall approach is strictly chronological with eighteen chapters taking the
reader from Billy's youth ("The Kid," "The Adolescent") through his final ar-
rest ("The Capture"), his murder of Bob Olinger ("The Escape"), and his
death ("The Execution"). A final chapter recapitulates "The Legend" in the
context the life presents. Billy's brief sojourn in the Texas Panhandle is covered
in chapter io, "The Drifter."
Difficulties inherent in assessing Billy's character are revealed in the author's
occasional ambivalence toward him. Is Billy a "boy" or a "man"? Utley wrestles
with the problem and could have placed it more in the social context of the day.
Social perspectives are slighted throughout the book, with, for example, His-
panic women viewed as rather one-dimensional and simple creatures who can-
not keep their minds or hands off Billy.
Controversy and analysis aside, this book is also very good entertainment.
Almost anyone who will pick it up surely knows that eventually Billy finds him-
self on the wrong end of Pat Garrett's gun, yet Utley deftly draws the reader
along, extracting maximum drama at every turn and heightening tension to
the end. Jaded Billy "buffs," novices curious about all the fuss, and disgusted
skeptics of the legend should all come away with a fuller understanding of The
Kid and his place in American history.
New Mexico Highlands University MICHAEL L. OLSEN
And Dze in the West: The Story of the O.K. Corral Gunfight. By Paula Mitchell
Marks. (New York: William Morrow, 1989. Pp. 480. Illustrations, bibli-
ography, index. $22.95.)
One of the main problems with western American history is simply that too
many buffs have been, and are, writing it. Lacking the objectivity and broad
overview of the professional historian, the buff's approach is usually one-
dimensional and parochial, personal rather than professional. Buffs tend to
own their subjects, and opposing views, especially those reflecting prying schol-
arship and the stirring of useful controversies, are angrily regarded as inva-
sions. So professional historians have tended to avoid writing about Tombstone,
Wyatt Earp, and the O.K. Corral gunfight. As a result, Earp has appeared ei-
ther as a fearless and romantic eidolon or as a bunco artist, stage robber, and
killer behind a badge. The O.K. Corral fight itself has passed into the language
as the ultimate symbol of unfocused violence (which is probably what it was).


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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992, periodical, 1992; Austin, Texas. ( accessed April 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Texas State Historical Association.