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Friday, May 22, 2015
Epitaph (a book review post)
Interestingly enough, it was these same Cow Boys who would create the enduring legacy of Wyatt Earp and, by extension, Doc Holliday. Wyatt Earp, who was possibly the ultimate frontier lawman... right up until he wasn't.
Of course, there are those who would argue that he was never a lawman, just an outlaw posing as one, but, mostly, those are the outlaws who accused him of that. Or men like Johnny Behan, and we know Behan was crooked, so it makes his accusations a little less believable.
At any rate, Epitaph is not really a book about Wyatt Earp. Which is not to say that it's not a book about Wyatt Earp, because it is. Mostly, though, it's about the conditions that lead up the shootout that was not actually at the O.K. Corral and the fallout after it. The enduring legacy it created.
The temptation, here, is to get into the history of it, but that's in the book. To say that Mary Doria Russell is a meticulous researcher is probably an understatement. We'll say instead that I trust her research. And, sure, I'm biased and, sure, this is historical fiction, but I believe the facts are mostly in place and the suppositions logically follow from the facts.
That said, it's Russell's ability to allow the reader to walk along with her characters that is her greatest asset. And that's where her research really shows, I think. She writes as if she knows these people, as if she spent time with them, as witnessed these things herself. It creates a completely believable world.
Basically, I can't recommend this book or Russell more highly. And, although this is a companion piece to Doc, Doc is not required reading; Epitaph is not a sequel.
Whether you think Wyatt Earp walked with the angels or the demons (and it's not unreasonable to suspect either considering that he was never shot; even when his clothes ended up full of bullet holes, he never received a wound), this book is worth reading for the insight on the situation. The incident "at" the O.K. Corral formed a view of the Old West that has never been shaken, one of showdowns and street fights that never really existed. And maybe that's okay, because it's the legends we look up to and aspire to be. Parts of me still want to be a cowboy.
Posted by Andrew Leon at 12:00 AM
Labels: Angel, Arizona, book review, characters, Cow Boys, cowboy, demon, Doc, Doc Holliday, Epitaph, frontier, Justice, lawman, Legacy, legend, Mary Doria Russell, O.K. Corral, research, Wyatt Earp
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I only just found out yesterday that Russell wrote historical fiction. Based on The Sparrow, I might put this on the list, despite that it's not my genre.ReplyDelete
You got a shout-out re: Mary Russell in my guest post on JM Beal's blog:
It's not up yet but should be sometime today.
Briane: Yeah, other than The Sparrow and Children of God, everything she's done has been historical fiction.Delete
The legacy of Tombstone and the Wild West days of the "Cow Boys" is so fascinating but has been so entrenched in the mythology of movies, TV, and dime novels. It's good to hear the true story as best as it can be told. This sounds like a good book.ReplyDelete
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Tossing It Out
Lee: It was a good book. She's a great author.Delete
That sounds very interesting. I always like to know how things came to be, what conditions inspired them. I'm not big on historical fiction, but this one, yeah, I'd buy it.ReplyDelete
Jeanne: It is interesting.Delete
Some people have complained about the amount of focus on Josie Marcus, but, without her, there probably wouldn't have been a shootout.
So at four, you wanted to be a dinosaur?ReplyDelete
Sounds like a fun read. Westerns aren't really my thing but you never know.
TAS: I did, actually, want to be a dinosaur. I was extremely gratified when I found that Bradbury story about the kid who almost became one.Delete
That's awesome. At five, I wanted to be an explorer. My family makes fun of me for it to this day but in truth, I haven't given up on the idea.Delete
TAS: Unfortunately, from a practical standpoint, there's not much left on Earth to explore. Well, except deep in the ocean, which is a completely valid choice.Delete
There's also space!
As I see it, while humankind has uncovered much, there's still plenty of exploring to do for the individual, even in one's own backyard. As an approach to life, it has served me well.Delete
TAS: I think the kind of exploring you're talking about is not what people envision in being an "explorer." Yes, you can discover things for yourself, but you can't often discover things that have never been discovered before. Not places, anyway.Delete
OK hahhahaah (I made a funny,) I will have to check this book out.ReplyDelete
I live in Tucson and was raised with the big sky open land concept.
I have worked in lots of other states but the draw to come back to the southwest and desert living is very strong.
Being raised here we know much of the history but what fun is the Wild Wild West.
I will put this on my read list.
parsnip: I don't really want to live in the desert, but there are some places I would like to visit.Delete
If you came here now you would probably not like it. But it is a special place.Delete
But I was raised running around all over the state and Tucson especially. (places I can't go now because it the illegals and drug cartels) The clear sky, all the stars, the smell of sage, dirt and ozone during the monsoons, watching a cloud raining as it blows across the valley. It gets in your soul. It draws you back.
The only other place that made me feel like this was Montana.
parsnip: I tend to be a mountain person, though I do like the smell of rain on dirt when it's just starting to fall.Delete
I don't want to be a cowboy, but I would like to ride a horse. I haven't been on one since I was about thirteen. I see ads for places that offer trail rides, but because I broke my back five years ago, I doubt if would be wise for me to ride. You go, Cowboy.ReplyDelete
Janie: I was about the same age the last time I road a horse. The person who saddled the horse, didn't tighten the saddle correctly, and, while I was riding, I began listing to the side until I had to jump off.Delete