Doc: A Novel
By Mary Doria Russell
Random House, 2011. 394 pgs. Fiction.
The need to fight for life began at birth for John Henry Holliday who immerged into this world with a cleft palate, which at that time was almost a death sentence for a newborn. His uncle, a gifted surgeon was able to repair much of the deformity, and his mother spent months feeding him with a dropper and years helping him to speak well enough that few knew he had ever struggled. While he was still young, his mother died of tuberculosis and left her only son with the same disease. His TB would eventually force him to move from his home to the dry, clean air of the Wild West. He would eventually become famous for his involvement in a brief shootout at the O.K. Corral and generations would know him by his nickname, Doc Holliday.
Doc is historical fiction at its finest. Russell paints a realistic and vibrant portrait of an educated man forced to live in a wild frontier. Doc Holliday is a great hero in his own story and while Russell doesn’t sensationalize the myths that are associated with his life and deeds, he is still clearly a larger-than-life character along with Wyatt and Morgan Earp, Miss Kate, and other key players who inhabited Dodge City. Readers will appreciate Russell’s humor and beautiful writing style along with Doc’s adventurous and courageous spirit.