Sunday, June 1, 2014

Book Review: Crime Buff’s Guide to Outlaw New Mexico

Crime Buff’s Guide to Outlaw New Mexico
Ron Franscell
Angel Fire Press: 2014

Review by Robert A. Waters

Ron Franscell is on a mission to catalog the criminal history of America.  He’s off to a roaring start, having chronicled villainous deeds from Texas, the Rocky Mountain regions, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, and now New Mexico.  And I hear Outlaw Arizona won’t be far behind.  (In each story, Ron provides GPS coordinates so crime buffs can visit the sites of the mayhem.)

New Mexico was where “wild” met “west.”  In addition to an entire section dedicated to Billy the Kid, the author introduces his readers to an assortment of killers, rustlers, prostitutes, bank robbers, con-men, and some just plain mean hombres.  Many are legends, others not so much.  What they all have in common are intriguing back-stories.

No book about New Mexico would be complete without a UFO tale, and Outlaw New Mexico has one I had never heard of.  Shortly after the Roswell episode in 1948, a fraudster named Silas Newton convinced investors to give him millions of dollars for a “new device that could find oil and natural reserves miles below ground.”  This device, he claimed, had been designed by a government agent who used advanced alien technology from the Roswell crash.  Newton and a cohort were soon arrested, convicted, and sentenced to prison.

Several cold cases may never be solved.  A mysterious West Mesa serial killer left a graveyard of ten victims (including an unborn child).  There seem to be no clues in the 1961 slayings of teenagers Mattie Restine and Patty Sue Pritz.  And the 1949 murder of party-girl Cricket Coogler is colder than a New Mexico winter.

Then, of course, there’s the Kid, whose legend blew through New Mexico like the wind.  There are many Billy the Kid sites to visit, including the trail where John Tunstall was bushwhacked.  This murder ignited the Lincoln County war, and helped put the Kid on the map.  There’s the spot where Pat Garrett was killed—the sheriff is best known for tracking down Billy and shooting him on sight.  And there’s so much more.

Spend a few bucks and buy the book.  You’ll love it.

Can’t wait for Outlaw Arizona.

1 comment:

Zack said...

Great-Grandfather Waters moved to Raton, NM from Georgia and was, according to family legend, associated with the gunfighter Clay Allison in the Colfax County war (an adjunct to Billy the Kid's Lincoln County war). The territorial governor and his gang were trying to take over the old Maxwell Land Grant, and Allison and "the Kid" opposed them. Zack