Friday, November 20, 2009

November 20, 2009
All of us who write books about Billy the Kid hope for the three Rs: that we will be respected, get rich from book sales and be fondly remembered for our efforts to get to the truth about Billy. Of course there have been over 1,000 books written about the Kid and as I like to brag, I didn't write all of them. Nope, not even half. I'm not exactly sure of the actual total, but let's just say I'm reading two new Billy books even as you read this.

But, I digress.

In our juvenile fantasies we can imagine people sitting around 100 years from now, fantasizing what it was like to be on the trail with the legendary writers (that would be me) and researchers who were on the trail of the legendary outlaw. What role will we have in the future stories? Will we be compared to Phil Rasch? Walter Noble Burns? William Morrison? Ash Upson? Jerry Weddle? (Oh, please dear God, don't let it be Jerry Weddle!)

In short, we all long to be part of The Story. But, as I am fond of quoting, "History is a cruel trick played on the dead by the living." And, I have a strong hunch how we are going to be remembered has less to do with our efforts and more to do with the bizarre aspects of Kid Krazy. And by Kid Krazy, I mean the absolutely incredible way in which everyone associated with covering this legend goes off the deep end.

Case in point: an ex-Beverly Hills psychiatrist named Gail Cooper has written an expose titled Mega Hoax: The Strange Plot to Exhume Billy the Kid And Become President.

Tell Me Something I Don't Know
In Mega Hoax, Ms. Cooper describes Paul Hutton as "a parasitic cuckoo bird."

Tell me something I don't know.

She also claims that Hutton is a "shape shifter."

Tell me something I don't know.

She goes after me like this: "Doing the ricochet trick Bob Boze Bell comes on screen [History Channel's Investigating History: Billy the Kid by Bill Kurtis] to state snidely that: "Friends of Pat Garrett conducted what they called an autopsy. But there were no photographs." Then she mocks me for being a self-avowed cartoonist and not being an acredited historian.

Come on Gail, tell me something I don't know.

Continuing her harangue of everyone who appeared on the History Channel show, she says, "Since all hoaxers, except [Gov] Richardson and Robins, are in cowboy costumes, there appear innumerable droopy or stringy mustaches on talking-heads throughout—inadvertently leaving the impression for cognoscenti that Old West characters were all jive-talkers; and leaving the audience at large waiting for them to join in a final scene singing:

"Oh come along boys and listen to my tale. . .
Come a ti yi yippie yippie yay come a ti yi hippie yippie yippie yay."

Tell me something I don't know.

Often, author Cooper goes after Hutton (who is the arch villain of the entire piece) and makes a fool of herself. For example, she quotes Hutton as claiming the Kid was 12 when his mother died, then she corrects him by claiming the Kid's real age was "14 1/2". Really? Historians and researchers have never found a birth record for the Kid, can't agree on when, or even where he was born and you've got it down to fourteen and a half? Amazing.

Okay, so now you've told me something I didn't know. Sorry.

Here's the part with my "lioness" managing editor and Cooper's pitch to run her hoax story in True West: "Into that lions' den, I went with my hoax expose! The lioness to who I was assigned was Meghan Saar, who e-mailed me on January 31, 2006: 'All parties in this article should be given the opportunity to respond; the article feels very biased and skewered toward one direction, and I feel this may be because not all parties were asked to comment.' I withdrew the article the next day, citing their bias."

Meghan's quote says it all, for me and our position on the entire project. But there is one more quote worth citing. After she took her article back she went to the New York Times, among others. First, she gives me credit, "The Boze Bell fiasco, at least, dragged me out of my anonymity closet." But when she contacted the New York Times reporter who wrote the front page article announcing the dig, he said to her he felt "both sides are totally crazed."

I rest my case. We're all Kid Krazy.

But, I will say this for the second printing of the book jacket:

"Mega Hoax is 477 pages and I absolutely guarantee you will find a laugh on every page."
—Bob Boze Bell, Executive Editor, True West magazine

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