Saturday, September 10, 2011
Publisher/Format: Random House audio 12 discs; 16 1/2 hrs
Narrator: Mark Bramhall
Year of publication: 2011
Subject: John Henry "Doc" Holliday
Setting: Dodge City Kansas
Genre: Fictional biography
Source: Public library download
I've never been a big fan of "Shoot 'em ups" but I grew up during the era of westerns on TV, watching Bat Masterson, Wyatt and Morgan Earp, and Doc Holliday in weekly episodes. I knew they were actual historic figures, but never had much need to figure out the who, why, when, where of each of their claims to fame. But when I kept seeing very positive reviews and conversations about this book from people who usually don't lead me to poor books, I decided to take a look at this one.
Even if you don't think you'd like westerns, even if you don't like biographies, try this one. Mary Doria Russell, and narrator Mark Bramhall have given us a very fresh, unadorned look at Doc, his lady friend Kate, the Earp brothers, and the bustling, smelly, muddy, smoked filled saloons and bawdy houses of Dodge City. Her research into the symptoms and effects of tuberculosis and her descriptions of the hard life of cattle rustling, early dental procedures, and law enforcement in "the wild west" give us a picture we didn't get on TV. Mark Bramhall's ability to give us a distinct voice for each character, a coquettish European accent for Kate, a guttural German for the Augustinian priest, a gentle Georgian drawl for Doc, Irish brogues for several of the women, and western twangs for the Earps was incredibly powerful and kept me riveted for the full sixteen hours.
Doc's long slow losing battle with TB was something I had been vaguely aware of, but the personalities of each of the others was new and interesting. It was an eye-opener for those of us steeped in whatever version of the shoot-out at the OK Corral we have inherited. Russell has done a wonderful job in setting the record back onto a more historically accurate track in a very enjoyable read along the way.