As Hollywood has so clearly mythologized through movies such as The Duke and Dirty Harry, being an outlaw in the Far West seemed to be a very risky way of life. Michael Ondaatje showed just how violent this part of American history might have been by writing a book about one of the West's most notorious outlaws, a book appropriately called The Collected Works of Billy The Kid. The Far West in this book is strongly violent, cruel and pitiless. The character Billy The Kid as well as attitudes of other characters in the book such the brutal Pat Garrett who does not hesitate to use violence to make the law rule.
The West in Ondaatje is strongly violent, which is mainly exposed through Billy the Kid. His real name is William Bonney and killed his first man when he was twelve. By the time he was twenty-one he had, by his own will, slain nineteen more.
In the following years he had become the mythologized Billy the Kid, bloodthirsty ogre and outlaw saint; "a boy with buck teeth and a pleasant face who could shoot a stranger calmly in the heart and walk away while birds ravaged the corpse"(56). In fact, Billy takes his killer job very serious and never uses his left hand except to shoot people. He wanted to keep his hand always strong by this way. Sheriff Pat Garrett, Billy's killer, said that Billy "never used his left hand for anything except of course to shoot. He wouldn't even pick up a mug of coffee" (43).
Many times in the book, Billy is shown violently killing enemies, sometimes with a reason, sometimes without one. For example, he shot a man named Gregory without any reason: "I'd shot him (Gregory) well and careful made it explode...