Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Book Review: The Life and Legend: Doc Holliday

The Life and Legend: Doc Holliday by Gary Roberts. NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2006.

A most enjoyable read, The Life and Legend: Doc Holliday begins with background of the man who was probably best known as Wyatt Earp’s friend. Doc, named John Henry Holliday came from a Georgian family who moved Westward after the War. Their trials greatly impacted the young boy to the depths of his soul. Clearly, he cared deeply for his family and personal honor. Clearly, he wanted to be successful in his career as a dentist. Clearly, this man was dealt a formidable blow with the diagnosis of consumption (tuberculosis). It changed the direction of his life toward becoming an American Legend.

Doc Holliday does not have the column space of Wyatt Earp, but the man was as much responsible for the OK Corral as was the famous lawman turned entrepreneur. What there is known about Doc Holliday comes often from a side bar to the famous Kansas City lawman, or as a story handed down within a family both proud and ashamed of their connection with Doc. Holliday’s wife or girl, depending on who you believe, recorded her memories about the man she loved… and hated. All these bits of information, pieced into a cohesive story tells about the man and the myth.

The relationships created and broken in the Western territories shaped the Southwest into what it is today. 19th century factions of merchant ranchers fighting for land rights and cattle across the US/Mexico boarder set the stage for the most fascinating and romantic period of Western history. At no other time was there the opportunity for men to become what they might. The possibility of hitting it rich in the mines or making a reputation for oneself had never before, nor perhaps since, been so open for courageous men to seize the moment. However, life in the West may not have worked out as well as one might have hoped. Doc was one of these characters.

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