Craig JonesSee All Reviews
John Henry “Doc” Holliday is an historical figure around whom much mythology has gathered. Mary Doria Russell has applied her considerable research skills to discover the true figure, and she has brought to life a remarkably well-bred and educated character. That he appears complex and sometimes mysterious is a tribute to her skill as a writer.
He was a skilled dental surgeon raised among Georgia aristocracy, who contracted tuberculosis at a young age thus compelling him to relocate to the Southwest, among the brawling miners and cattlemen of the mostly lawless western frontier. Russell chooses to omit the famous gunfight at the OK Corral from her narrative, presumably because it is already well documented. She refers to it obliquely several times, but her story essentially ends before it takes place. The author is clearly more interested in portraying the dying man as a gentleman among frontiersmen, and her portrayal of the Earp brothers and other historical figures gives sharp contrast to her portrait of Holliday.
I am not especially fond of this period of American history or its icons, but I have admired her writing for a long time, and was not disappointed. Doc is as absorbing and well written as any of her previous novels, and adds considerable depth to the stereotypes that are often applied to these well-known names.