Friday, April 29, 2011

Doc: A Novel by Mary Doria Russell

First of all, I'd like to thank the great people at Good Reads who gave me the opportunity of being one of the first readers of Mary Doria Russell's historical novel, Doc. For those of you who don't know, Good Reads hosts giveaways held by publishers and authors - from well-known authors to indie writers.

John Henry Holliday, better known as Doc Holliday in popular culture, was immortalized as a quick-drawing, drunk, gambling gunslinger in  movies like Tombstone and the docu-drama, Wyatt Earp. His been portrayed on screen by actors like Val Kilmer, Kirk Douglas and Dennis Quaid. But how much of Doc Holliday - as well as, his relationship with Wyatt Earp - do we actually know? He was made famous because of the shoot out at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, AZ, which only lasted less than a minute. Dime store novelists and Hollywood producers wanted more action, more thrills. Soon the mere dentist, slowly dying of consumption, was turned into a fiend, an anti-hero.

Mary Doria Russell set off on her writing adventure to capture the man, not the legend, unmuddied by media-created lies. And in doing so, she created an image of Dr. John Henry Holliday - the dentist, the good friend, the lost soul, the taker of those abandoned and less fortunate - that we would otherwise never have known - despite the evidence and literature that contradict pop culture.

Russell's novel isn't exactly a western, though it does have its feel. More poetic than a regular historical novel. She allows the reader to make judgments and comparisons - once in a while, flash forwarding us to the future persona Doc Holliday would hold.

When Dr. John Henry Holliday - a dentist who just established his practice in Dodge City, Kansas - is called to inspect the burned body of young John Horse Sanders, he calls foul play. Because Sanders is Negro, Bat Masterson disregards the death, calling it accidental. What doesn't make sense is, Sanders' body was found in the ashes of the Elephant Barn when he didn't own a horse. But in Dodge City, everyone is suspect. When Wyatt Earp returns from Texas, he learns of the death. Panged with guilt, Earp takes on the position of lawman for Dodge City, alongside his younger brother, Morgan. The event of John Horse Sanders' death draws the three men closer.

Mary Doria Russell gives us a look of life before Tombstone, something that is rarely done. She casts away any popular culture depictions of Holliday and the Earps, placing poetic prose in their place. The book hits shelves on May 3 and will be available in Kindle and Nook.

1 comment:

  1. Most people don't know that Doc Holliday was born with a cleft palate, but was able to get surgery at two months old to fix it. Smile Train is the largest charity for cleft palate surgery in the world today, and Mary Dorian Russell has decided to donate to the cause. With her book release, she will match her fan's donations to this amazing charity!