For Billy the Kid, that is--here, a "young, short, dirty, ugly, and violent" killer, but still magnet enough to polarize the fabulous cast of historical and fictional characters that McMurtry (Texasville, 1987; Lonesome Dove, 1985; etc.) assembles in this lustrous new Western entertainment. The man who'd do anything for Billy is Ben Sippy, top author of dime novels such as Boiled in Yellowstone; or, Mustang Merle Amid the Geysers, late of Philadelphia and gone west at age 50 to seek adventure. Adventures he finds in spades, narrating them decades after the fact in short, often cliffhanger chapters that make this rich tale McMurtry's own sophisticated version of a "dimer." Instant failure at train robbery--the train just won't stop for him--finds Ben stranded in New Mexico when Billy comes "walking out of a cloud" towards him, "a pistol in each hand and a scared look on his rough young face." Ben and Billy take a shine to each other and, joined by saintly cowboy Joe Lovelady, roam the West in tandem during the few months that see Billy mutate from novice outlaw--so far, he's murdered only one man, half by accident--into a wanton killer. Along the way, Billy--with Ben in loyal tow--falls afoul of Will Issinglass--richest rancher in the West--and his right-hand man, the seven-foot tall, camel-riding African warrior Mesty-Woolah; mixes up with Doc Holliday, Bloody Feathers, Hill Coe, and other Western legends; is bedded by both Will's chili-pepper-blooded outlaw daughter and ice-goddess British mistress (who sleeps with Ben too); sinks ever deeper into glumness and ill health; and watches his young life turn into an uncontrollable myth as killing becomes a habit that he rides at full gallop towards an early death. Stuffed with excitement, humor, tragedy, and leathery Western lore; centerpieced by McMurtry's vibrant portrait of Billy, scary, pathetic, yet darkly if oddly sympathetic; told in a warm, wise voice that you wish would never cease: this is a golden, always surprising yarn, and a welcome return by McMurtry to the high-stepping form of Lonesome Dove.