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Solid Biography of Doc Holliday

  • Mar 16, 2009
Writing about western legends like Doc Holliday is an extremely difficult and daunting prospect for the historian. First, there is the scant, and often contradictory, primary sources on which to rely. Second, these individuals really did lead rather violent and somewhat eccentric lives, but at the time the fables and untrue tall tales that are spun about the lives of these figures leaves the historian trying to the pull the truth out of the web of untruths. And finally, even contemporary and later day works or interviews with those who actually knew the person are often full of mistruths and exaggerations.

Thus, the task Roberts set himself up for. Given the above obstacles, I have to give Roberts a pass for not really supplying a biography of Holliday that contains facts or stories I have not read before. This biography does do a good job of pulling the many threads of Doc Holliday's story together in a readable, well organized, if somewhat dry, manner. The writing style is a bit on the dull side, and often he skirts into sidebars that I could do without, but overall the effort is a worthy, but not great one.

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From Publishers Weekly
Roberts, an authority on western history, takes on John Henry Holliday, legendary gunman, drinker, gambler and dentist (hence "Doc"), best known for some adroit shooting at the OK Corral on October 26, 1881. This is part biography, part debunking of myths and part archive of accounts of the lives of Holliday and the Earp Brothers written from the time they were alive up to the present. Roberts is effective in evoking the influences that formed his subject's character. Born in Georgia in 1851, Holliday absorbed the manliness and rebelliousness instilled in young men of his prosperous class in antebellum Southern culture. Holliday also acquired expertise in drinking, whoring and gambling, as well as a taste for violence. Roberts is measured in evaluating the myths associated with Holliday's exit from Georgia and his nomadic life in Texas, Colorado and Arizona. This brings the author to Tombstone, and the fray featuring Holliday and the Earps against the Clantons and McLaurys. You can't beat this story for drama, and Roberts provides a step-by-step account of the gunfight. Some chapters are unduly packed with Roberts's massive research. But without it, the book would not have been what the author plainly intends—an omnibus of everything ever known, spoken or written about Doc Holliday. Photos not seen by PW. (Apr.)
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ISBN-10: 0471262919
ISBN-13: 978-0471262916
Author: Gary L. Roberts
Genre: American History
Publisher: Wiley
Date Published: 2006
Format: Hardback, Paperback
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