Fourteen year old Willie Smith had practically been ""big brothered to death"" -- his declaration of independence now the butt of a family joke. So, having had it up to here, packs his gear and heads for Dodge City where Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp befriend him and in playful condescension dub him the ""Sassparilla Kid."" As Deputy Smith, a member of a new and more illustrious net of brothers, Willie veers headlong into more adventure and thrills than he bargained for. Yet in the process he learns the difference between a real killer and a gun-slinging marshall, and above all he learns the value of life and the necessity of frontier law. Readers will be fascinated by the portrayal of legendary heroes -- for instance, did you know that Bat Masterson was an avid reader? In any case, when Willie returns home, he no longer needs to declare his independence, his experiences and growth are living proof of it. To some, the boy's luck may seem contrived, but his adventures in the wild woolly west and the author's attempt to debunk some of the illusions surrounding it, will surely interest the masculine audience.