Many stories have been written about the exploits of Billy the Kid, the charismatic outlaw of the Old West. Some have been pure fiction, designed to entertain and excite. Purple prose writers began chronicling the exploits of Billy as early as the late 1870s. Others have been biographical, researched by historians or recorded by those who knew him, including his murderer, Sheriff Pat Garrett.
But there was once a different side to the famous gunfighter, a softer more artistic side that seems at odds with Billy’s reputation for shooting, killing, and robbing. Born Henry McCarty, he was also known by the names Henry Antrim, Kid Antrim, and William H. Bonney. He didn’t shoot twenty-one men, as has been claimed. Four is a more likely number, three in self-defense. In Before Billy the Kid, author Melody Groves explores the early life of the infamous outlaw, the teenage boy who loved to sing and dance. The young man who was polite, educated, and popular. A boy who had the bad luck to be orphaned at fifteen and left with no one to guide him through life. How different history might have been if Billy had pursued his love of music instead of a life of crime.
New Mexico native Melody Groves loves anything Western. Winner of numerous writing awards, her most recent non-fiction books include Butterfield’s Byways: America’s First Overland Mail Route Across the West (Arcadia, 2014) and When Outlaws Wore Badges (TwoDot, April 2021). Specializing in Western history, she has authored two fiction series: The Colton Brothers Saga and The Maud Overstreet Series. A member of Western Writers of America and Southwest Writers, she also plays rhythm guitar in The Jammy Time band. She lives in Albuquerque.