Feb 26, 2016

Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral by Mary Doria Russell

Absolutely captivating novel on Wyatt Earp and his life

Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral by Mary Doria Russell
March 2015
Borrowed from library
Burton Book Review Rating:
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.


I don't know what prompted me to borrow this book from the library (digital library loan, my new bff!), as I am not a passionate fan of the Earps, the Wild West, or Tombstone. Something told me I would be missing out if I passed this up, based upon the many rave reviews on Amazon. I read this chunky 597 pages in a four day span - with me working full-time and chauffeuring kids etc, and so that tells you something right there.

This is not a novel that is just based on the O.K. Corral shootout - but everything that leads up to it and why. Characters such as the Earp brothers and their ladies are the main draw, but the novel actually opens with Josephine Marcus, aka Sadie, who later became the significant other to Wyatt Earp. Doc Holliday is prominent as well, and I cannot wait to sink my teeth into the author's previous novel, aptly titled 'Doc'. The political scheming of the era, with the law men, Cow-Boys, and newspaper editors all come together to breathe glistening life into the author's story which I just could not put down. I loved every minute of it, and the research of the author shows in her words.

Tombstone movie watchers will find it hard to not have those actors playing through their minds as they are reading the book, but that was not a bad thing for me. I am going to re-watch that movie just to relive it again. A wonderful novel on an epic time period of America that won't disappoint.

BEST OF 2016 - my first find for the year as a new favorite!

This is another book to add to my personal resolution of 2015 to read my own books, and ban review books.