The Life and Times of the Horrell Brothers
By Frederick Nolan
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Most of the men and women who inhabit this story set in Texas and New Mexico in the 1870s have been dead for more than a century. Good, bad, rich, poor, handsome, ugly, courageous or craven, their lives are remembered first in the protective, slanted, often-partisan recollections of their families, their children, their friends. And then, they are not so much remembered as reconstructed by present-day researchers and historians relating those reminiscences to facts, to dates and to known events. But how near the truth is any of it? We can barely imagine, let alone identify with pioneer families like the Horrells, shaped as they were by the turmoil of Reconstruction, their spartan upbringing, a family pride as cruel and haughty as that of the clans of ancient Scotland, and an unwavering refusal to recognize any law other than the law they made themselves. In the final analysis, what researchers and historians—no matter how diligent, no matter how honest—tell us is what happened, how it all came out. What would those proud, vengeful men—and women—think, what would their reaction be if they could read or listen to the author’s conclusions? Would they be surprised by how much is known? Or would they laugh scornfully at how much might be wrong? The author believes it would probably be the latter.
Frederick Nolan is widely recognized as the world’s leading authority on the history of Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County War and both he and his work on the subject have been garlanded with honors. He has received the Border Regional Library Association of Texas’ Award for Literary Excellence, the first France V. Scholes Prize from the Historical Society of New Mexico, and the first J. Evetts Haley Fellowship from the Haley Memorial Library in Midland, Texas. The Western Outlaw-Lawman History Association has presented him with its highest honor, the Glenn Shirley Award, for his lifetime contribution to outlaw-lawman history and The Westerners Foundation has named his The West of Billy the Kid one of the 100 most important 20th-century historical works on the American West. In 2007 the National Outlaw-Lawman Association awarded him its prestigious William D. Reynolds Award in recognition of his outstanding research and writing in Western history and in 2008 True West magazine named him “Best Living Non-Fiction Writer.” Among his other books about the American West are an annotated edition of Pat Garrett’s Authentic Life of Billy the Kid, The West of Billy the Kid, The Lincoln County War, and The Life and Death of John Henry Tunstall, the latter two from Sunstone Press in new editions. He lives in England.
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