Doc Holliday: The Life and Legend

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9780471262916: Doc Holliday: The Life and Legend
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"You can't beat this story for drama. . . . An omnibus of everything ever known, spoken, or written about Doc Holliday."
-Publishers Weekly

"An engagingly written, persuasively argued, solidly documented work of scholarship that will surely take its place in the literature of the Old West."
-Booklist

In Doc Holliday: The Life and Legend, the historian Gary Roberts takes aim at the most complex, perplexing, and paradoxical gunfighter of the Old West, drawing on more than twenty years of research-including new primary sources-in his quest to separate the life from the legend. Doc Holliday was a study in contrasts: the legendary gunslinger who made his living as a dentist; the emaciated consumptive whose very name struck fear in the hearts of his enemies; the degenerate gambler and alcoholic whose fierce loyalty to his friends compelled him, more than once, to risk his own life; and the sidekick whose near-mythic status rivals that of the West's greatest heroes. With lively details of Holliday's spirited exploits, his relationships with such Western icons as Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson, and the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, this book sheds new light on one of the most mysterious figures of frontier history.

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From the Inside Flap:

He was a study in contrasts: the legendary gunslinger who made his living as a dentist; the emaciated consumptive whose very name struck fear in the hearts of his enemies; the degenerate gambler and alcoholic whose fierce loyalty to his friends compelled him, more than once, to risk his own life; the sidekick whose near-mythic status has come to rival that of the West's greatest heroes. More than 100 years after he died of tuberculosis at the age of thirty-six, Doc Holliday remains an enigma, a legend in the shadows, a brooding metaphor for the moral contradictions of life on the late nineteenth-century frontier.

In Doc Holliday: The Life and Legend, the historian Gary Roberts takes aim at the most complex, perplexing, and paradoxical gunfighter of the Old West. Drawing on more than twenty years of research on his enigmatic subject, Roberts discovered numerous new primary sources in his quest to understand both what John Henry Holliday did and didn't do, and what these exploits meant to the elusive man behind the now-legendary deeds.

Roberts explores Holliday's idyllic, antebellum childhood in Georgia, where he was schooled in the manly virtues of independence, loyalty, proficiency with weapons of every kind, and above all, honor. He considers numerous explanations behind John Henry's sudden and drastic decision to abandon his large extended family and a promising career to move to Texas, where, in the parlance of the day, he "slipped from the path of rectitude" even as he clung to his profession and the ideals he had learned as a child. Roberts tracks Holliday's western ramblings from Dallas to Denver to Cheyenne to Dodge City to Tombstone, always in pursuit of the next game of chance and another shot of whiskey, his health on a deep, downward spiral, his gunfighting skills on the rise. Along the way he befriended (or made enemies of) such Western icons as Bat Masterson, Kate Elder, Curly Bill Brocius, and Wyatt Earp.

As you'll discover, there were as many conflicting opinions about Doc Holliday as there were people who knew him, or knew of him: To Earp, he was a "mad, merry scamp with a heart of gold and nerves of steel." According to Masterson, he "had a mean disposition and an ungovernable temper, and under the influence of liquor was a dangerous man." Newspapers called him everything from "a very mild-mannered man . . . genial and companionable" to a "shiftless bagged-legged character—a killer and a professional cut-throat." In this fascinating probe into the real life of a near-mythic figure, you'll meet the man who lived up to every one of these statements and more.

From the Back Cover:

Acclaim for Doc Holliday

"Splendid . . . not only the most readable yet definitive study of Holliday yet published, it is one of the best biographies of nineteenth-century Western 'good-bad men' to appear in the last twenty years. It was so vivid and gripping that I read it twice."
—Howard R. Lamar, Sterling Professor Emeritus of History, Yale University, and author of The New Encyclopedia of the American West

"The history of the American West is full of figures who have lived on as romanticized legends. They deserve serious study simply because they have continued to grip the public imagination. Such was Doc Holliday, and Gary Roberts has produced a model for looking at both the life and the legend of these frontier immortals."
—Robert M. Utley, author of The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull

"Doc Holliday emerges from the shadows for the first time in this important work of Western biography. Gary L. Roberts has put flesh and soul to the man who has long been one of the most mysterious figures of frontier history. This is both an important work and a wonderful read."
—Casey Tefertiller, author of Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend

"Gary Roberts is one of a foremost class of writers who has created a real literature and authentic history of the so-called Western. His exhaustively researched and beautifully written Doc Holliday: The Life and Legend reveals a pathetically ill and tortured figure, but one of such intense loyalty to Wyatt Earp that it brought him limping to the O.K. Corral and into the glare of history."
—Jack Burrows, author of John Ringo: The Gunfighter Who Never Was

"Gary L. Roberts manifested an interest in Doc Holliday at a very early age, and he has devoted these past thirty-odd years to serious and detailed research in the development and writing of Doc Holliday: The Life and Legend. The world knows Holliday as Doc Holliday. Family members knew him as John. Somewhere in between the two lies the real John Henry Holliday. Roberts reflects this concept in his writing. This book should be of interest to Holliday devotees as well as newly found readers."
—Susan McKey Thomas, cousin of Doc Holliday and coauthor of In Search of the Hollidays

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Publisher: Wiley, 2007
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