Mary Doria Russell has penned, in two required novels of historical fiction, a most refreshing picture of a classic, near-mythical, tale of the American Western. We must have seen a fist-full of re-makes of movies and television productions of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday and The Gunfight at OK Coral. As the author reminds us, the “gunfight” eclipsed only thirty seconds of “clock time”.It involved a few ordinary men.The meager accomplishments and identities of these men might otherwise have been lost in the dustbin of history were it not for the antagonists Clanton Gang. The wildly popular dime novels of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries magnified these events. These ubiquitous little books fed a story-hungry, infant movie industry followed by television’s first needs. Russell has taken a tired and threadbare myth and in a two-volume treatise of historical and barely fiction, delivers a “can’t-put-it-down, page-turner”. She accomplishes this even though we know the climax before we start reading the opening page. The narrative extends from New York, Georgia, Texas, Kansas, and Arizona then to San Francisco and even Hollywood. The story continues over a period of almost a hundred years.
I was reminded of James Michener’s epic expositions. It is obvious that Russell invested an enormous amount of time in research, combing through period publications and interviews. These novels are also remarkable for the intricate character development and good old-fashioned storytelling. These are Immensely entertaining and informative works.
Charles Clanton Rogers revised August 2015
(1) DOC: A NOVEL, Russell, Mary Doria, Harper Collins 2012
(2) EPITAPH: A NOVEL of the OK CORAL, Russell, Mary Doria, Harper Collins, 2015
Also, great listens on Audiobooks