John Wesley Hardin! His name spread terror in much of Texas in the years following the Civil War as the most wanted fugitive, with a $4,000 reward on his head. A Texas Ranger wrote that he killed men just to see them kick. Hardin began his killing career in the late 1860s and remained a wanted man until his capture in 1877 by Texas Rangers and Florida law officials. He certainly killed 20 men; some credited him with killing 40 or more.
After 16 years in Huntsville prison, he was pardoned by Governor Hogg. For a short while, he avoided trouble and roamed westward, eventually establishing a home of sorts in wild and woolly El Paso as an attorney. He became embroiled in the dark side of that city and eventually lost his final gunfight to an El Paso constable, John Selman. Hardin was 42 years old.
Besides his reputation as the deadliest man with a six-gun, he left an autobiography in which he detailed many of the troubles of his life. In A Lawless Breed, Chuck Parsons and Norman Wayne Brown have meticulously examined his claims against available records to determine how much of his life story is true, and how much was only a half truth, or a complete lie. This deeply researched biography of Hardin and his friends and family will remain the definitive study for years to come.
The book is published by University of North Texas Press.