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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Lincoln County War

The last book I started on my Italy vacation turned out to be a rather tough one. I hadn't thought it would be scientific as it in reality was. History of the Lincoln County War - A classic account of Billy the Kid by Maurice G Fulton is quite intriguing anyway though. While the title is a little misleading - Billy the Kid is really only a subcharacter in the bigger scale of the Lincoln County War even if he is the most interesting one of the actual gun men - this is a very good description of the hold on power a few early entrepreneurs had on small towns, counties, states even in the early West. This grip-hold was quite simply ensured by violent measures - not that this comes as a surprise to anyone who has ever seen a Western - yet the brutality and even more so the amount of scheming and bribing that took place in the South West during the later half of the 19th century leaves one awe-struck. Without going into too much detail, the Lincoln County War pits one fraction (McSween, Tunstall, Chisum (yes, THAT Chisum) trying to break the grip on wealth and power another fraction (Dolan, Murphy, Ridley). The former group in the beginning tries to resort to lawful measures only, but when Tunstall is murdered they too become implicated in the fighting that overtakes Lincoln and its neighboring towns. Fulton offers a very detailed (in regard to name-dropping sometimes a little too detailed) account of the events surrounding these mythical men (OK, I might be exaggerating a little here, but then, if Billy the Kid and Chisum are not mythical, who else could make a claim for that?). The only downside to the book is the very old-fashioned style of writing (it is based on material recorded in the 30s) which at the same time is not as classy as Faulkner's for example, more like an old-fashioned scientific writing than an old-fashioned literary style (which I wouldn't have a problem with). This problem is compounded by long quotations of newspaper articles appearing during these New Mexican troubles written often by the protagonists of the war itself and accordingly not of the highest literal quality. Yet, I enjoyed it and while I would not recommend it to anyone who is not as obsessed with certain aspects of American history as I am, it was definitely worth whatever (I can't remember, it's been awhile) time I spent on it for me.

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