Although there is plenty of excitement in this excellent study of Western outlaws by the author of The Trampling Herd, Glory, God and Outlaws, etc., there are few real heroes and no Robin Hoods. The author, a former police reporter in Wichita, holds the theory that the organized gangs of robbers and killers who roamed the American Southwest -- Missouri, Kansas, Indian Territory -- from the 1860's to the 1930's illustrate ""the contagious nature of crime,"" and had their roots in a common school of crime. Quantrill, the Confederate guerrilla turned compulsive killer, founded the school after the Civil War, helped by the notorious Belle Starr, his contemporary but not his actual associate, who trained her lovers in the criminal arts. From this ""school"" other outlaws founded other gangs: Jesse James, ""Quantrill's ablest pupil,"" who knew the value of publicity; the Youngers and Frank Starr, who had connections with Belle and Quantrill; the Daltons and the Cooks; Bill Doolin, who fought squarely; Cherokee Bill, who loved killing. The line ended in 1934 when Pretty Boy Floyd was killed by the F.B.I. -- as so many of the outlaws had died at the hands of the law, the great marshals, Masden or Tilghman, or hanged by Judge Parker, the ""Hanging Judge"". This carefully documented book will appeal to Western buffs and serious students of the old West alike, even to TV addicts of the legend of Jesse James which it obliterates.