Leon Claire Metz, author of The Shooters – A Gallery of Notorious Gunmen from the American West, has compiled an impressive list of famous, and infamous, American lawmen and outlaws. Each of the twenty-nine characters covered in this entertaining book, is a well known name to aficionados of Western literature and lore.
From Billy the Kid to Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp, Metz explores the facts and fables surrounding these well known personalities. Time has done much to embellish the reputations of these characters, but even then many of these men fairly earned all the fame they have enjoyed.
Interesting to note, Metz points out in numerous instances that there was a fine line indeed between the western outlaw and the lawman. More than a few of these individuals went from law enforcement to outlawing, and back again. A good example of this is Wyatt Earp who was nearly immortalized by Kurt Russell’s portrayal in the film Tombstone, which overlooked Earp’s more nefarious dealings before arriving in that city which made him the legend (and some would say undeserved legend) he is today.
From train robberies, bank hold ups and cattle rustling, the characters featured in The Shooters have proven themselves to be notorious, sociopathic and fascinating, contributing to the overall allure of the wild and wooly American West. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the Mysterious Dave Mather, the notorious Daltons and the psychopathic John Wesley Hardin are just a few of the many individuals that Metz covers in the book.
Pat Garrett (the man who shot Billy the Kid, although there now seems to be some controversy surrounding this event) along with Long Haired Jim Courtwright and Dallas Stoudenmire are just a few of the controversial sheriffs that Metz profiles. The famous Texas Rangers, deadly but not nearly as effective as most people would believe, may have an undeserved reputation according to the author.
Western enclaves of crime and violence are also covered. Las Vegas (New Mexico) El Paso and Tombstone, Wichita, and Dodge City are just three of the western towns with blemished, but irresistible, reputations.
It’s interesting how many of these famous characters lived well into the 1900’s. Most people think of the west and its outlaws as “long ago,” but in fact some of these characters died well within the lifetimes of many now living Americans. Only recently a newspaper article discussed the fact that Butch Cassidy was not shot in South America as so many believe, but died in the 1937 in the United States.
The fact that the West, and the history of the West, holds a fascination for many people can easily be testified to by the growing popularity of True West Magazine and the Western Historical Society