by Mary Doria Russell
HarperCollins, 2015. 581 pgs. Fiction
Tombstone, Arizona. October 26, 1881. 5 cowboys. 4 lawmen. 30 seconds that changed everything. This is the story of the events leading up to those 30 seconds, the gunfight, and its aftermath. In 1881 Tombstone was a burgeoning frontier metropolis with three newspapers, a number of restaurants, two banks, four churches, a school, an opera house, a bowling alley, an ice cream parlor, 110 saloons, 14 gambling establishments, and a bunch of brothels. The mining town was on the rise and it was drawing men with political and financial ambitions.
An earlier chapter in this story--that of Doc & Wyatt becoming friends while in Dodge City is told in Russell's earlier novel, Doc. In Epitaph Russell details the sequence of events that led to the famous gunfight, but what she really does is show the character of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Russell reveals them in all their humanity--their values, feelings, desires, as well as their flaws and limitations. Vivid characters and authentic dialog make this a compelling western tale. A familiar story re-told with excellence, insight, and compassion.