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The real Doc Holliday

January 4, 2012

“Doc” by Mary Doria Russell  (Random, 2011)

I don’t think there could be anyone better qualified to write a novel about the famous gunslinging frontier dentist Doc Holliday than Mary Doria Russell. Not only is she an acclaimed author, she is the daughter of a sheriff, holds a doctorate in biological anthropology, and taught gross anatomy at dentists college.

John Henry Holliday

John Henry Holliday

This intricate and vivid western novel portrays the story of John ‘Doc’ Holliday and his friendship with the Earp brothers in the lead-up to the fight at the OK Corral at Tombstone. The author has conducted meticulous research and has reconstructed the story of Holliday’s early life, from the trauma of having a hare lip, to going through the Civil War in his teens, losing his consumptive mother, and having to abandon his promising Eastern dentistry practice to head West in the hopes that the climate there would help his own tuberculosis.

Russell portrays Doc as a young man who was forced to turn his hand to poker as a means of support, as dentistry on the frontier was not lucrative – a man who practised his quick-draw and cultivated a reputation as a killer with a temper as a means of protecting his scrawny body.  His long-time once-noble and highly educated Hungarian girlfriend Maria Katarina Harony supplements the other main characters of Morgan and Wyatt Earp, whose own early stories are part of the narrative.

I found this book to be very interesting, as well as a really good read. In my opinion, it portrays the frontier in a very realistic manner, while keeping the story romping along at a good pace.  Recommended to not only Western fans, but those who enjoy a good drama peppered with a touch of romance. – Natalie

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From → New Books, Review

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