Historian Mark Gardner, author of ‘To Hell on a Fast Horse,’ visits Avon | VailDaily.com

Historian Mark Gardner, author of ‘To Hell on a Fast Horse,’ visits Avon

Caramie Schnell
VAIL CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyAuthor and historian Mark Gardner has spent the last few decades writing about Western history, a subject which he says fascinates him.

There’s a common theme author Mark Gardner is drawn too: The thrill of the hunt. In his book “To Hell on a Fast Horse: The Untold Story of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett,” Gardner recreates the manhunt for Kid, the Wild West’s most iconic outlaw. The book is also a dual biography – the first – about Kid and his rival, sheriff Garrett, who eventually shot and killed Kid.

Gardner visits the Avon Public Library Thursday as part of the library’s Books in Bloom series.

“There are many reasons to want Mark Lee Gardner at the library,” said event organizer Michelle Marx. “We want to support Colorado authors; he’s a historian of the western experience, which is of great interest; and he’s going to play music as well.”

Tonight’s event won’t be a “straight lecture,” Gardner said.

“I want it to be fun,” he said. “I Iike to talk about both Billy and Pat and their role in popular culture.”

Gardner is also a musician and plans to perform a few Billy the Kid songs, including one by Bob Dylan called “Billy.”

Writing “To Hell on a Fast Horse” took two years of research, a year to write, and was “really challenging,” Gardner said.

“There were two story lines and the main characters don’t die at the the same time,” he said during a phone interview this week from his home in Cascade. “Garrett lives another 26 years. It was a really difficult book to write.”

Gardner has always been fascinated by Garrett, and he originally just pitched a book on him to his literary agent, who suggested he write a dual biography.

“Part of Billy’s legend is how he was killed,” Gardner said. “He wouldn’t have been as famous had Pat Garrett captured him and he was hung. He had to shoot him down for Kid to become an iconic legend. They needed each other to become the iconic characters we now know so well.”

That same manhunt theme is present in Gardner’s next book, which he’s working on now. The book is about the Northfield Raid, a famous disaster in Northfield, Minn. when the James-Younger Gang decided to rob the local bank.

“The townspeople decided they wouldn’t let them do it and shot them all to pieces,” Gardner said.

Two members were killed on the streets of Northfield and the Younger brothers were captured a few weeks later.

“The book is about the raid, and the two-week manhunt, which up until that time, was the biggest manhunt in history,” he said. “A thousand men were trying to capture them.”

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.

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