Summary and book reviews of Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell

Epitaph

A Novel of the O.K. Corral

by Mary Doria Russell

Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell X
Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2015, 592 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2016, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Darcie R.J. Abbene

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About this Book

Book Summary

A richly detailed and meticulously researched historical novel which continues the story she began in Doc, following Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday to Tombstone, Arizona, and to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Mary Doria Russell, the bestselling, award-winning author of The Sparrow, returns with Epitaph. An American Iliad, this richly detailed and meticulously researched historical novel continues the story she began in Doc, following Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday to Tombstone, Arizona, and to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

A deeply divided nation. Vicious politics. A shamelessly partisan media. A president loathed by half the populace. Smuggling and gang warfare along the Mexican border. Armed citizens willing to stand their ground and take law into their own hands...

That was America in 1881.

All those forces came to bear on the afternoon of October 26 when Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers faced off against the Clantons and the McLaurys in Tombstone, Arizona. It should have been a simple misdemeanor arrest. Thirty seconds and thirty bullets later, three officers were wounded and three citizens lay dead in the dirt.

Wyatt Earp was the last man standing, the only one unscathed. The lies began before the smoke cleared, but the gunfight at the O.K. Corral would soon become central to American beliefs about the Old West.

Epitaph tells Wyatt's real story, unearthing the Homeric tragedy buried under 130 years of mythology, misrepresentation, and sheer indifference to fact. Epic and intimate, this novel gives voice to the real men and women whose lives were changed forever by those fatal thirty seconds in Tombstone. At its heart is the woman behind the myth: Josephine Sarah Marcus, who loved Wyatt Earp for forty-nine years and who carefully chipped away at the truth until she had crafted the heroic legend that would become the epitaph her husband deserved.

For the Sake of Helen: Princess, Prize
Since I Went Away and Left my Native Land

"You're Russian."

She looked over her shoulder.

He was thin-faced and bent a little to his left, but tall enough to spy on her over the swing doors that separated the Cosmopolitan Hotel's busy lobby from its rarely used music room.

She swiveled on the piano stool and fixed him with a bleary, red-rimmed, adolescent glare. "I'm as American as you are!"

A slow smile. Leaning on a silver-topped walking stick, he stepped inside. "Not 'Russian,' " he said, enunciating more clearly. "You're rushing."

Everything about the man seemed slightly askew. His smile, his posture, his demeanor. With an unhurried stateliness he came closer and handed her a handkerchief.

"Blow your nose, sugar."

Resentfully, she did as she was told. Annoyed to be treated like a child. Aware that wiping snot on her sleeve was not a sophisticated alternative.

Without introducing himself, he ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Mary Doria Russell’s novel, Epitaph, which tells of the famous event at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, AZ does not disappoint in its recount of honor, justice, jealously, pride and vengeance...While the story is a familiar one, the writing is unique in its character development and illustrative language. It offers a thorough depiction of the players, period and story.   (Reviewed by Darcie R.J. Abbene).

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Media Reviews

Library Journal
Starred Review. The multitude of points of view exemplifies the best of third-person omniscience, revealing innermost secrets, hopes, and fears.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Despite all that has been written and filmed about Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp, Russell's pointedly anti-epic anti-romance is so epic and romantic that it whets the reader's appetite for more.

Reader Reviews

dwt

Don't miss a single book this woman has written!
Epitaph is just as fine as everything else Mary Doria Russell has ever written. Read them all.....

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Beyond the Book

The Myth of the American Cowboy

American CowboyIn a chapter toward the middle of her novel, Epitaph, Mary Doria Russell includes an excerpt of a letter penned by Oscar Wilde, in England, to Harry Wood, editor of one of Tombstone's newspapers, The Nugget. In it, he inquires whether the editor could "obtain for me a good specimen of the genus Homo known as the cow-boy." The note lends humor to a tense moment in the book, right after the cowboys who attacked Virgil Earp were exonerated, but it also indicates how far flung the fascination was with the American cowboy. The image of the lone cowboy – sitting tall in his saddle, astride his favorite trusty horse, hat pulled down against sun and sand, spurs catching the glint of the sun – is a vivid one in American culture. ...

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