New Mexico native Melody Groves has lived with a passion for the Wild West her entire life – and with 13 books to her name it is clear her passion for exploring the West and uncovering its secrets has stayed strong. The Western Writers of America recently awarded Groves the Spur Award for biography for her latest novel, Before Billy the Kid: The Boy Behind the Legendary Outlaw.
This riveting novel delves into the early days of Billy the Kid’s life, portraying him as a polite, educated, and popular youth. Groves believes her unique outlook as a female and her exploration of the West give her an edge over other authors and historians. Groves’ book is one of five New Mexico Spur winners, alongside Bob Rosebrough for Contemporary Nonfiction, Larry D. Thomas for Poem, and Randy Huston for Song.
What sets Groves apart is her willingness to go to extremes and immerse herself in the cowboy lifestyle. At 48 she attended bull-riding school in Denver and, undeterred by a concussion, two years later returned and managed to get on five bulls- although she never stayed on for the 8 seconds needed to score. Channelling her inner lawman and outlaw alike, Groves also joined New Mexico Gunfighters Association- where she reenacted stages of Billy the Kid’s life, complete with a dramatic lightning bolt during shooting.
Groves’ work reflects her profoud knowledge and love of the Wild West, having written works of both fiction and non-fiction, including six novels in the Colton Brother’s Saga, two novels about Maud Overstreet’s adventures, and books about the Butterfield stage line, historic bars, and lawmen of the Wild West. Despite preferring fiction for its sense of possibility, Groves has undeniably made a lasting influence on those studying Billy the Kid and the West in general with her work.