Sunday, October 23, 2011

Doc, by Mary Doria Russell

Doc Holliday is one of those characters that we're surprised was actually a man, a flesh-and-blood human living in the 19th century and not just a spit-fire, charming consumptive dealing deadly hands of poker in legend after legend. John Henry Holliday was born in Georgia in 1851 and, as Mary Doria Russell tells us in her first sentence, he began to die only 21 years later. But the Fates, as she has it, had a lot more in store for the southern gentleman cum dentist before that death caught up with him. Fleeing the tuberculosis that killed his mother and had already settled in his lungs, John Henry fled west, where he met Kate, the woman who would change his life, and the Earp brothers, the men who would draw him into the history books.

Doc tells John Henry Holliday's story before the fateful showdown at the OK Corral. The book is a strange beast, with a heaping of omniscient narrative overview and relatively little real-time story telling. For this reader, that took a little getting used to. But the story picks up as the novel progresses, and by the time Doc is coughing blood into his handkerchief while Morgan Earp reads to him at his bedside, I was hooked. Russell does a wonderful job of humanizing this legend, apparently aided by an impressive amount of research, and I'm very glad to have met her version of Doc.

The photo here is of John Henry Holliday at age 20, upon graduation from dental school. It is one of the few authenticated photographs of the man.

Side note: Apparently Paramount bought the rights to a script for an action adventure film about Doc Holliday. Cool. Though I'm willing to bet Mary Doria Russell's version of the man is far more interesting.

No comments:

Princess Nijma

Princess Nijma