Sunday, January 27, 2013

Doc: Mythology Made Manifest

Here in Tucson we just can’t get enough of OK Corral mythology, and lovers of Tombstone lore will relish the backstory details about Doc Holliday served up in style by Mary Doria Russell in Doc.

This first of a promised two-volume fictional retelling of the life of the iconic Doc begins at the beginning (in pre-Civil War Georgia) and ends with his decision to get out of Dodge (Dodge City, that is), and light out to Arizona. Doc’s early life is marked by tragedy (the death of his mother to tuberculosis) and his own danged bad luck (a promising Dental career has to be shelved  when he is diagnosed with the same disease). But heading west for his health, Doc quickly discovers that gambling pays better than dentistry, and that a smart card player handy with a firearm can change his luck. A cast of colorful, recognizable characters appear on cue – Wyatt and Morgan Earp, Bat Masterson, and Kate Harony (Big Nose Kate) are just a few of the real-life folks strolling the streets of Dodge, each of them rendered fully-developed and multi-dimensional in Russell’s capable hands.

This well-crafted novel fairly crackles with fascinating historical fact, evocative descriptions of the West when it was wild and razor-sharp dialog. When Russell was at the Tucson Festival of Books last March, she noted that she was on her way to Tombstone to research volume II of this remarkable fictional retelling. She’ll be back at Festival 2013 this March, and I hope she’ll have lots of progress to report.  Volume II just can’t get here fast enough. 


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