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Monday, September 26, 2011



Mary Doria Russell
Random House, 2011

“Without hope, without fear” is the motto that John Henry “Doc” Holliday and his lover Kate “Big Nose” Harony agree to live by in this historical fiction novel set in the early days before the infamous OK Corral gunfight set in Tombstone. Doc and Kate have come west to Dodge City, hoping that the warmer dry air will help his consumption. If they can make some money gambling at cards, so much the better. Wyatt Earp and his many brothers are also in Dodge working in various enterprises including the law and prostitution. When a young mixed breed dies in mysterious circumstances, Doc and the Wyatt brothers join forces to protect the town from the corrupt and bullying methods of the local leaders, which provides a unique background to their later battles.

Doc is portrayed as a sensitive and caring individual, who is more concerned about loyalty, friendship and ethics than his own personal situation. He and Kate have a tumultuous and volatile relationship, which concerns Doc’s friends in Dodge, but he shrugs off their concerns and sticks with Kate. She is needy, self-centered and argumentative but loves him fiercely and completely. Indeed, Wyatt is a little afraid of her and avoids her whenever possible. Wyatt and Doc become friends after Doc, a dentist, works on Wyatt’s teeth and improves his self-confidence with a new smile. Meanwhile, Morgan, one of the Earp Brothers, reads classic literature recommended to him by Doc, and the two form a deep friendship based on their intellectual discussions.

The infamous gunfighters are finding their way in this “prequel” to the famous battle. They are all young – in their twenties and thirties – and just learning what is important and worth fighting for in the isolated frontier town of Dodge. Wyatt Earp is nervous and broke and lacks self-confidence; Doc is sickly and worried and determined to live life to the fullest; and Kate is brash, self-indulgent and impulsive. Russell has created a fascinating world where legends have just begun the journey that will make them famous.


Other novels by this author:
The Sparrow (1996)
Children of God (1998)
Thread of Grace (2005)
Dreamers of the Day (2008)

Other titles you may enjoy:

An Ordinary Woman: the dramatized biography of Nancy Kelsey by Cecelia Holland (1999)
Nancy Kelsey, her husband, and a small group of Americans make the perilous overland trek to California, where she works at Sutter's Fort and rides in the Rebellion that wrests California from Mexico, in a novel based on the real-life exploits of one courageous American pioneer woman.

Anything for Billy by Larry McMurtry (1991)
The dime novelist Ben Sippy tells the story of Billy Bone whom he named Billy the Kid after meeting him in 1878.

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (2011)
Set against the backdrop of the great California Gold Rush, this darkly comic novel follows the misadventures of the fabled Sisters brothers, two hired guns, who, under the order of the mysterious Commodore, try to kill Hermann Kermit Warm, a man who gives them a run for their money. .


  1. I don't normally like Westerns, per say, but since we visited Tombstone, I DO have an interest in this. Hmmmmm.....I just might give it a try!

  2. I loved this book! Thank you for reviewing it and sharing it.