A deeply divided nation. Vicious politics. A shamelessly partisan media. A president loathed by half the populace. Smuggling and gang warfare along the Mexican border. Armed citizens willing to stand their ground and take law into their own hands. . . .
That was America in 1881.My impressions:
All those forces came to bear on the afternoon of October 26 when Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers faced off against the Clantons and the McLaurys in Tombstone, Arizona. It should have been a simple misdemeanor arrest. Thirty seconds and thirty bullets later, three officers were wounded and three citizens lay dead in the dirt.
Wyatt Earp was the last man standing, the only one unscathed. The lies began before the smoke cleared, but the gunfight at the O.K. Corral would soon become central to American beliefs about the Old West.
Epitaph tells Wyatt’s real story, unearthing the Homeric tragedy buried under 130 years of mythology, misrepresentation, and sheer indifference to fact. Epic and intimate, this novel gives voice to the real men and women whose lives were changed forever by those fatal thirty seconds in Tombstone. At its heart is the woman behind the myth: Josephine Sarah Marcus, who loved Wyatt Earp for forty-nine years and who carefully chipped away at the truth until she had crafted the heroic legend that would become the epitaph her husband deserved.
I don't think I ever actually knew what happened at the O.K. Corral. Other than my exposure to the Wyatt Earp series on TV when I was a child, I knew nothing about the Wild West. Russell paints a clear and easy to read picture of this era and area of US history and geography. Each character is so well developed that we feel we are really there along for the ride as rivalries and loyalties wax and wane among the major and minor players.
Not only does the author lead the reader up to the fatal shooting, she takes us past that occasion to follow the characters to the end of their lives. A well-developed and thoroughly enjoyable read, even for those who are fans of westerns. Although touted as a western, this belongs much more to the historical fiction genre and should appeal to a wide range of readers.
Author: Mary Doria Russell
Publisher: Ecco (2015)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Subject: Law and order
Setting: Arizona and environs
Source: Public Library
Why did I read this book now? It is being considered for nomination for the 2016 Maine Readers Choice Award and I'm on the selection committee.