OF LAWMEN, OUTLAWS, AND GUNFIGHTERS
By Leon Claire
(New York: Checkmark Books/Facts On File, 2003)
Review by Dr.
Central Texas Historical Association
November 1, 2022
popular Old West historian Leon Claire Metz died of COVID-19 complications
in November 2020 (EL PASO TIMES, November 16, 2020). Author of numerous
books on frontier law enforcers and desperadoes, and past president
of the Western Writers of America, Metz also worked as an archivist
at The University of Texas at El Paso Library. His studies include
JOHN WESLEY HARDIN: DARK ANGEL OF TEXAS, PAT GARRETT: THE STORY OF
A WESTERN LAWMAN, and DESERT ARMY: FORT BLISS ON THE TEXAS BORDER.
Metz also wrote THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF LAWMEN, OUTLAWS, AND GUNFIGHTERS,
an outstanding reference work that covers "key events and geographical
locations" and profiles numerous gunmen, both the iconic and lesser
known. It boasts, as well, more than sixty photographs, an impressive
bibliography, and an insightful essay, "The Way of the Gunfighter:
provides lengthy entries on such legendary figures as Clay Allison,
Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the Dalton brothers,
Wyatt Earp, Pat Garrett, John Wesley Hardin, Doc Holliday, Frank and
Jesse James, Bat Masterson, and Bass Reeves. Moreover, in briefer
entries, he addresses such topics as Boot Hill, the Colt revolver,
dime novels, Dodge City, the El Paso Salt War, the Gunfight at the
OK Corral, the Lincoln County War, the Pinkerton National Detective
Agency, and the Texas Rangers.
Old West devotees, especially those intrigued by crime and law enforcement,
will enjoy Metz's superb encyclopedia. You can practically smell the
For an excellent article on Metz, see Milan Simonich, "A History of
Leon Metz: Old West Chronicler Took Circuitous Route to El Paso,"
in the EL PASO TIMES, May 9, 2010.
Frontier history buffs interested in Billy the Kid should read the
exceptional new biography, BILLY THE KID: EL BANDIDO SIMPATICO (Denton:
University of North Texas Press, 2022) by James B. Mills. According
to the publisher, Mills "explores the Kid's disputable origins, his
family's migration from New York into the Southwest, and how he became
an orphan, as well as his involvement in the Lincoln County War, his
outlaw exploits, and his dealings with Governor Lew Wallace… Most
importantly, Mills is the first historian to fully detail the Kid's
relations with New Mexicans of Spanish descent."