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David Thomas’ Fascination With Wild West Lawman

By |2019-12-10T14:03:00-05:00November 22nd, 2019|Emerging Author Spotlight|

“I was getting ready to go to lunch…when the door to the sheriff’s office opened and in walked Wayne Brazil, looking hurried and upset. He had his gun in his hand, and as he came up to my desk he laid it down in front of me.”

The sentence that follows from Brazil, from the recollection of a county sheriff in Las Cruces, NM in 1908, is the basis for David G. Thomas’s incredibly researched work including hundreds of notes, 112 images, over 100 chapters, four appendixes and a 100-year timeline: “’Lock me up, I’ve just killed Pat Garrett.’”

But was the case as open and shut as that?

Who can say whether David G. Thomas is the world’s leading authority on the legendary lawman Pat Garrett, best known for tracking down and killing Billy the Kid? But after reading Killing Pat Garrett, The Wild West’s Most Famous Lawman – Murder or Self-Defense (our review), who could dispute it? Thomas certainly is well credentialed: co-founder of the Pat Garrett Western Heritage Festival and co-founder of Friends of Pat Garrett.

Although it didn’t start out that way, Thomas soon became obsessed with who killed Garrett and the circumstances of his violent death by gunshot.

“I quickly realized no biographer of Garrett has been able to answer the questions,” Thomas writes.  “All have expressed opinions. None has presented evidence that would stand up in a court of law.”

Garrett’s life was marked by extreme highs – meeting two U.S. presidents – and devastating lows and great tragedy within his own family. He also faced a series of personal financial crises.

The crux of the narrative are the circumstances surrounding Garrett’s feud with Wayne Brazil and his killing. The dispute that apparently led to Garrett’s demise involved a contract between the two men about the sale of goats and a disagreement on how many goats were involved. While Brazil gave himself up and confessed to the county sheriff as the killer of Garrett, there’s the question of whether Garrett had threatened Brazil to the point of making the shooting a matter of self defense.

Thomas, however, introduces evidence that a professional killer, “Deacon Jim” Miller, might have been paid $1,500 to do the job. The author also introduces the possibility of a conspiracy theory.

Thomas had access to more than 80 letters Garrett wrote to his wife.  He says he uncovered many documents that uncovered new details surrounding Garrett’s personal life right up to his killing. He also includes never-before-published photographs of Garrett, his wife, children, ranch sites, Brazil, the place where Garrett was shot, and more.

BookTrib had the chance to ask Thomas some questions about his interest in the Wild West lawman:

Why the fascination with Pat Garrett? When did it begin?

He was killed a few miles from where I live. About 18 years ago I was invited to join an informal, more-or-less secret society of area residents who were protecting and preserving the location where Garrett was killed. The site was marked shortly after Garrett’s death in 1908 with a small stone with a cross carved in it. In the early 1960s a cement monument was put around the stone. About 12 years ago it looked like the monument site was going to be developed by a real estate developer, so the society decided to go public. We formed the Friends of Pat Garrett (friendsofpatgarrett.com) and made the site public on the internet.

What was the most fascinating aspect of Pat Garrett that you uncovered from all your research?

Almost everything written argues that he was killed as a result of a conspiracy. I was skeptical. As a result of my research, I am able to prove, at least to my satisfaction, that that was not the case.

The book includes what you call more quotes than [maybe] any history book you have read. Why did you choose this approach?

Most historians do not have the luxury of using lots of quotes, as they are just not available in their sources. I was able to find many of Garrett’s words, and the words of many of the people with whom he interacted. They are wonderfully expressive. It would be a crime to paraphrase them. With so many quotes, they almost work like dialogue.

What message do you hope readers will take away from this book?

What a fascinating life Garrett led, and to convince them Garrett was not killed as a result of a conspiracy.

What project is up next for you?

This is my fifth book on New Mexico history. My next book is on the courtroom trial of Billy the Kid, which took place right here where I live. Almost all of the original trial documents were stolen in the 1930s. I have managed to locate almost all of them.

Killing Pat Garrett is now available for purchase.

David G. Thomas is an author, historian, filmmaker, producer, actor, screenwriter, and travel writer. He was Associate Producer of a 2019 documentary film The Wonder of the Century, based on his book on Giovanni Maria de Agostini, an Eighteenth-Century world traveler. He is the co-founder of the Pat Garrett Western Heritage Festival and co-founder of Friends of Pat Garrett. Killing Pat Garrett is his fifth book.

About the Author:

Jim Alkon
Jim Alkon is Editorial Director of BookTrib.com. Jim is a veteran of the business-to-business media and marketing worlds, with extensive experience in business development and content. Jim is a writer at heart – whether a book review, blog, white paper, corporate communication, marketing or sales piece, it really doesn’t matter as long as he is having fun and someone is benefitting from it.

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