The year is 1878, peak of the Texas cattle trade. The place is Dodge City, Kansas, a saloon-filled cow town jammed with liquored-up adolescent cowboys and young Irish hookers. Violence is random and routine, but when the burned body of a mixed-blood boy named Johnnie Sanders is discovered, his death shocks a part-time policeman named Wyatt Earp. And it is a matter of strangely personal importance to Doc Holliday, the frail twenty-six-year-old dentist who has just opened an office at No. 24, Dodge House.
Beautifully educated, born to the life of a Southern gentleman, Dr. John Henry Holliday is given an awful choice at the age of twenty-two: die within months in Atlanta or leave everyone and everything he loves in the hope that the dry air and sunshine of the West will restore him to health. Young, scared, lonely, and sick, he arrives on the rawest edge of the Texas frontier just as an economic crash wrecks the dreams of a nation. Soon, with few alternatives open to him, Doc Holliday is gambling professionally; he is also living with Mária Katarina Harony, a high-strung Hungarian whore with dazzling turquoise eyes, who can quote Latin classics right back at him. Kate makes it her business to find Doc the high-stakes poker games that will support them both in high style. It is Kate who insists that the couple travel to Dodge City, because "that's where the money is."
And that is where the unlikely friendship of Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp really begins - before Wyatt Earp is the prototype of the square-jawed, fearless lawman; before Doc Holliday is the quintessential frontier gambler; before the gunfight at the O.K. Corral links their names forever in American frontier mythology - when neither man wanted fame or deserved notoriety.
Authentic, moving, and witty, Mary Doria Russell's fifth novel redefines these two towering figures of the American West and brings to life an extraordinary cast of historical characters, including Holliday's unforgettable companion, Kate. First and last, however, Doc is John Henry Holliday's story, written with compassion, humor, and respect by one of our greatest contemporary storytellers.
"Starred Review. Filled with action and humor yet philosophically rich and deeply moving - a magnificent read." - Kirkus Reviews
"In a tale notable more for a remarkable cast than orderliness of plot, the rising tension between the corrupt, carousing, and well-armed inhabitants of Dodge... makes a spectacular background to a memorable year-in-the-life tale of a fiery young Southern gentleman whose loyalty to his friends and love of music outshine even his fragile health and the whiskey-soaked violence of the western frontier." - Publishers Weekly
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Rated of 5
This may end up as one of my most-loved top 5 all-time books - who would have thought that a story about a year in the life of Doc Holliday could be so spellbinding? Mary Doria Russell gets everything right, from the very first page where she hooks you with John Henry Holliday's birth story and the love and tenaciousness of his mother Mary. From there, the gentility of the southern culture and way of life that he came from is in such sharp contrast to his life in Dodge City, Kansas and other locales out west, where he retreated to due to his tuberculosis, the same disease which takes his young mother from him at age 15. In 1878 Dodge, we encounter a murder mystery, the Earp brothers like we've never known them, Big-Nosed Kate, a Austrian Jesuit priest and a whole host of gunslingers, cowboys, prostitutes, a Chinese laundryman and entrepreneur and politicians of every stripe. The writing is almost musical in it's lyricism and the relationships and characters are so finely sculpted, it is a story and a book you won't soon forget.
Mary Doria Russell was born in suburban Chicago in 1950. Her mother was a Navy nurse and her father was a Marine Corps drill sergeant. She and her younger brother, Richard, consequently developed a dismaying vocabulary at an early age. She learned discretion at Sacred Heart Catholic elementary school; how to diagram sentences at Glenbard East High; cultural anthropology at the University of Illinois; social anthropology at Northeastern University in Boston; and biological anthropology at the University of Michigan.
Mary and Don Russell have been happily married for an unusually high percentage of the years since 1970. Don is a software engineer and one of the founders of AllTech Medical Systems, which designs and manufactures medical imaging equipment for the Chinese domestic market. They ...
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