The Kid

A Novel

The Kid

“A marvelous journey into both history and imagination…A perfectly compelling and fast-paced story” (San Francisco Chronicle) from Ron Hansen about an iconic American criminal of the old West: legendary outlaw, Billy the Kid.

Born Henry McCarty, Billy the Kid was a diminutive, charming, blond-haired young man who, growing up in New York, Kansas, and later New Mexico, demonstrated a precocious dexterity at firing six-shooters with either hand—a skill that both got him into and out of trouble and that turned him into an American legend of the old West. He was smart, well-spoken, attractive to both white and Mexican women, a good dancer, and a man with a nose for money, horses, and trouble. His spree of crimes and murders has been immortalized in dime westerns, novels, and movies.

“The Kid’s story has been told many times. But not like this” (The New York Times Book Review). In his incredible novel, Ron Hansen showcases his masterful research and inimitable style as he breathes life into history, bringing readers back into Billy’s boyhood as a ranch hand just trying to wrest a fortune from an unforgiving landscape. We are with Billy in every gunfight and horse theft and get to know him in full before his grand death in a hail of bullets in 1881 at the age of twenty-one. Original, powerful, and swiftly told, The Kid is “entertaining and lively…an excellent, transportive read” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).
  • Scribner | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781501133305 | 
  • November 2017
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Kid includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

Billy the Kid’s spree of crimes and murders has been immortalized in dime westerns, novels, and movies. But the whole of his short, epically violent life has never been told as it is in The Kid. Ron Hansen showcases his masterful research and inimitable style as he breathes life into history, bringing readers back in time to the 1880s and Billy the Kid’s boyhood as a ranch hand trying to wrest a fortune from an unforgiving landscape. We are with Billy in every gunfight and horse theft and get to know him in full before his grand death in a hail of bullets in 1881 at the age of twenty-one. Original, powerful, and swiftly told, The Kid is an unforgettable read about a uniquely American antihero.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Ron Hansen opens the book with the line “You’ll want to know about his mother, she being crucial to the Kid’s becomings” (p. 1). Catherine McCarty, we soon learn, dies when the Kid is only fourteen years old. Would you agree that she plays a crucial role in Billy’s fate? In wh see more

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About the Author

Ron Hansen
Photograph by Charles Barry

Ron Hansen

Ron Hansen is the author of ten novels—including The Kid, Mariette in Ecstasy, Desperadoes, and A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion—and two short story collections, among them She Loves Me Not. His novel The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. He graduated from Creighton University in Omaha and went on to the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop where he studied with John Irving. He is now Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., Professor in Arts and Humanities at Santa Clara University in northern California.

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