To Hell on a Fast Horse: Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, and the Epic Chase to Justice in the Old West

The more you read good histories of the Old West, the more you realize that the guys whose names we recognize — Wyatt, Wild Bill, Custer, Jesse, Buffalo Bill, Tilghman, Doc, Bat, et al. — were no better than they had to be, and frequently a hell of a lot worse. If you’re looking for real live Robin Hoods, look elsewhere. And good luck.

Mark Lee Gardner’s TO HELL ON A FAST HORSE: BILLY THE KID, PAT GARRETT, AND THE EPIC CHASE TO JUSTICE IN THE OLD WEST is a dual biography of Patrick Floyd Jarvis Garrett, known to friends and history as Pat Garrett, and Billy the Kid, aka William Bonney, Kid Antrim, Henry McCarty, that little bastard or whatever his name was. We don’t know for sure and probably never will. It is assumed at this time that his mother was Catherine McCarty, but The Kid found it useful to confuse the issue of his birth certificate name, if he even had a birth certificate.

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bullets broads blackmail and bombsThe church and its influence play central roles in this week’s column, be it a superspy who works for the Vatican, or part of the clergy itself. All are all quick reads. First up is a book from an author who can’t hide behind his pseudonym.

THE INQUISITOR: THE DEVIL IN KANSAS by Simon Quinn — The cover might say Quinn, but it’s all Martin Cruz Smith. He wrote six books in this men’s adventure series. This 1974 entry could easily fall into the category of “forgotten heroes,” with lead Francis Xavier Killy. He works for the church — more specifically, an organization called the Holy Office of Inquisition. That’s right: He is a killer for God.

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Inside Out

Format-wise, INSIDE OUT is a “stand-alone sequel” to Barry Eisler’s FAULT LINE. It’s a sequel in that it features Ben Treven, the Black Ops solider whom we met in the earlier novel when he was called to help his lawyer brother. But it’s a stand-alone too, because while having read FAULT LINE puts you at a certain advantage, it is not essential for the understanding of this latest work.

Content-wise, however, INSIDE OUT tackles one of the most sinister and controversial topics Eisler has ever attempted: torture of political prisoners and why the government has kept such activity secret. It’s the kind of topic that demonstrates both Eisler’s formidable strengths as well as some of his weaknesses as a novelist.

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The Long Fall

THE LONG FALL is the first novel in Walter Mosley’s new Leonid McGill crime/mystery series. Now that it is out in trade paperback, and the second novel, KNOWN TO EVIL, recently out in hardcover, it’s a perfect time to get into this series.
Even if you are not one to follow a series from its inception, THE LONG FALL is highly recommended, as it heralds Mosely’s return to the field he previously graced with his 11 Easy Rawlins books, and offers the joy of reading a masterful author in full control of his powers.

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Did Somebody Step on a Duck?: A Natural History of the Fart

My first impression upon seeing the cover of DID SOMEBODY STEP ON A DUCK?: A NATURAL HISTORY OF THE FART was this: “There’s a history to it?”

Apparently so. “Fart historian” Jim Dawson lets loose with nearly 50 mini-essays on gaseous expulsions throughout our times, both related to historical events and pop-culture trends — everything from Tiger Woods and REN & STIMPY to global warming and the vuvuzela — that left their mark on our world, for good or ill, for silent but deadly.

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BOOK WHORE >> 6.29.10

book whoreShe’s back, pimpin’ out notable new releases to place on your radar!

RUNNING DARK by Jamie Freveletti — Emma Caldridge is on mile 36 of the 55-mile Comrades ultramarathon in South Africa when a roadside car bomb explodes. Dazed and disoriented, she regains consciousness after the blast to find a man standing over her with a white plastic injector. She feels the prick of a needle and the rush of medication under her skin, but before she can make a sound, the man is gone. Shaken by the event and unsure of what substance was pumped into her, Emma calls the one person who can help her figure things out: Edward Banner of the security company Darkview. But Banner has his hands full with another emergency: Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden have attacked a cruise ship, and Darkview has been hired to assist with the rescue.

THE CROWDED SHADOWS by Celine Kiernan — Every tyrant who ever threatened the Kingdom is gathering to Alberon’s table, and the forest is alive with spies, wolves, and bandits. Within these crowded shadows, Protector Lady Wynter Moorehawke travels alone and unprotected, determined that she shall find the rebel prince and heal the rift that has come between the King and his legitimate heir. But who is an ally and who is a foe? In this, the second volume of The Moorehawke Trilogy, old friends and even older enemies ensure that Wynter is never certain of who she can trust.

MOONSHINE by Alaya Johnson — Zephyr Hollis is an underfed, overzealous social activist who teaches night school to the underprivileged of the Lower East Side. Strapped for cash, Zephyr agrees to help a student, the mysterious Amir, who proposes she use her charity worker cover to bring down a notorious vampire mob boss. What he doesn’t tell her is why. Soon enough she’s tutoring a child criminal with an angelic voice, dodging vampires high on a new blood-based street drug, and trying to determine the real reason behind Amir’s request — not to mention attempting to resist his dark, inhuman charm.

KITTY GOES TO WAR by Carrie Vaughn — Kitty Norville, Alpha werewolf and host of THE MIDNIGHT HOUR, a radio call-in show, is contacted by a friend at the NIH’s Center for the Study of Paranatural Biology. Three Army soldiers recently returned from the war in Afghanistan are being held at Ft. Carson in Colorado Springs.  They’re killer werewolves — and post-raumatic stress has left them unable to control their shape-shifting and unable to interact with people. Kitty agrees to see them, hoping to help by bringing them into her pack. Meanwhile, Kitty gets sued for libel by CEO Harold Franklin after featuring his nationwide chain of 24-hour convenience stores with a reputation for attracting supernatural unpleasantness on her show.

SHAKESPEARE, SEX, & LOVE by Stanley Wells — Pre-eminent Shakespeare critic Stanley Wells draws on historical and anecdotal sources to present an illuminating account of sexual behavior — and its consequences — in Shakespeare’s time, particularly in Stratford-upon-Avon and London. Shakespeare’s Stratford was a hotbed of small-town gossip; the town’s records reveal many cases of slander involving accusations of cuckoldry and whoredom, as well as many prosecutions for fornication, sexual “incontinence” and adultery. Wells explores this milieu, demonstrating what we know or can deduce of the sex lives of Shakespeare and members of his family, and depictions of sexuality in the poetry of the period. Chapters cover everything from the fun that Shakespeare gets out of sex in his comedies, to the ways he relates sexual desire to both lust and love.

Buy them at Amazon.

Agents of Treachery

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Read the AGENTS OF TREACHERY anthology. Mighty editor Otto Penzler writes that it’s the first such collection of original spy fiction in the history of ever. He should know.

While not every story among the 14 scores, it’s tough to ignore a lineup of all-new tales that includes some of the biggest in the business — from both the pop-fic and literary ends — including James Grady, John Lawton, John Weisman, Stephen Hunter, Gayle Lynds, Andrew Klavan, Robert Wilson, Dan Fesperman, Stella Rimington and Olen Steinhauer.

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Twin Spica: Volume: 02

Put simply, volume two of Kou Yaginuma’s TWIN SPICA does not disappoint. Manga publisher Vertical Inc. set the bar awfully high earlier this year with its first installment of the acclaimed 2002 series, but this follow-up clears the hurdle without so much as a tap.

As we last left Asumi, a pint-sized, motherless schoolgirl angling to be an astronaut, she was admitted to the prestigious Tokyo Space School. Here, she’s still trying to acclimate herself in her new surroundings far from home, and adjusting to dealing with the diverse personalities of her classmates, not all of whom are exactly friendly.

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The hottest disease going right now has to be THE STRAIN, the debut novel of Academy Award-nominated film director Guillermo Del Toro (PAN’S LABYRINTH), co-written with Chuck Hogan. It’s the start of a trilogy about vampires taking over the world, and we have five copies to give away.

To enter:
1. E-mail us your name and mailing address (U.S. only; no P.O. boxes) with “Beats the swine flu” as the subject line, to editor at bookgasm dot com.
2. Await Friday, July 2, when we announce the randomly chosen winners.
3. Or, just buy it at Amazon.

The Strain

As THE STRAIN begins, Flight 753 from Berlin to New York has experienced trouble — not in the air, but upon landing. Rather than taxing to the terminal, the plane just sits there, and its pilots ignore messages of inquiry from the control tower.

When people are sent in to check it out, all the shades are drawn. And inside, everyone appears to be dead, but with no signs of decomposition. Upon further examination, CDC investigators Ephraim Goodweather and Nora Martinez find that one pilot and three passengers actually are alive, barely. So what the hell happened?

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