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Book Review – “Dirty Dave” Rudabaugh, Billy the Kid’s Most Feared Companion

Wild West History Association Journal - June, 2023

Wild West History Association Journal – June, 2023

“Dirty Dave” Rudabaugh, Billy the Kid’s Most Feared Companion

Until 2023, little has been written about the often mythologized and misunderstood character. Prepare to be swept away by the complete and never-before-told story of the outlaw who some say even frightened the infamous Billy the Kid himself.

Billy the Kid enthusiasts have had their fair share of authors and historians to look up to, such as Frederick Nolan and Robert Utley, to name two. But this generation of Billy the Kid researchers has truly outdone themselves and at the top of that list sits historian/author David Thomas.

With over five years of research, Thomas has left no stone unturned in his quest to uncover the truth about Dave Rudabaugh. From his origins to his father’s death, and ultimately how he came to be known as the only man that Billy the Kid was afraid of, Thomas peels away the legend of Dave Rudabaugh and reveals an individual that was far from what he has been portrayed.

Thanks to Thomas locating rare court documents, including Rudabaugh’s trial transcripts, it can be seen that he was actually a very articulate and well-educated man who was a product of his times, and far from the cold-blooded psychopath that he has been portrayed as. David Thomas expertly weaves Rudabaugh’s life together with his time riding with the Kid, and for the first time in print, he lays out the detailed events of the shootout at Coyote Springs, shedding light on one of Billy the Kid’s least talked about escapes.

“Dirty Dave” Rudabaugh, Billy the Kid’s Most Feared Companion also features never-before published photographs of the Coyote Springs’ location and gun battle site. The late author Maurice Fulton was the only know historian to have visited and photographed the site before, making these images a true treasure for Wild West enthusiasts.

Additionally, the book reveals the site of what remains of the Greathouse Tavern, where Rudabaugh, Billy the Kid, and Billy Wilson made yet another escape from authorities while leaving behind the dead body of White Oaks blacksmith James Carlyle. In addition, the recently placed headstone at the grave of James Carlyle is shown, adding more depth and authenticity to this fascinating tale.

The book concludes with the death of Dave Rudabaugh and the provenance behind the much-debated image of his decapitated head. David Thomas lays out the two images’ timeline and establishes their authenticity.

“Dirty Dave” Rudabaugh, Billy the Kid’s Most Feared Companion also includes a detailed timeline surrounding the life of Dave Rudabaugh, as well as impressive cast of characters chapter to round out the story of one of the most talked about and misunderstood characters of the American West. So, saddle up and get ready for the ride of your life with this riveting tale of outlaw intrigue and Wild West legend!

Josh Slaten – Wild West History Association Journal, June, 2023