A Novel

Book - 2011
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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. 
Publisher: New York : Random House, 2011.
ISBN: 9781400068043
Characteristics: xvi, 394 p. ;,25 cm.


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Oct 06, 2019

This book was fascinating! "Doc" takes place in the shadow of that death sentence called tuberculosis, which Dr. John Henry Holliday postponed for as long as he could with a mixture of gentility and bourbon. Fact and historical fiction converge as the author creates a Dodge City filled with surprising history, making the reader feel as though they are actually there, listening to the tinkling of saloon pianos. Doc was a gentle Southern dentist with a wry sense of self-deprecating humor, but he was capable of killing a man as coldly as any of the Old West’s famous gunfighters! Although Wyatt Earp and his brothers are also a constant presence in the novel, it's Doc who is the star. He was a chivalrous man who "never used one word when twenty would do the same job." (I love that!)

Aug 15, 2019

Growing up near the town where Doc Holliday died, I knew little about him or Dodge City. I got all my knowledge from the TV show Gunsmoke! I had now idea that Doc Holliday had TB and how he lived for so long with it. Meeting the Earp brothers and Bat Masterson in this fictional account was much more interesting than the TV show.

Jul 21, 2019

A fictional account of the life of Doc Holliday, it was a rich story with sly wit, great heart and colorful and complex characters. I felt cheated by the telling (or actually the non-telling) of Doc's final years and the book was a little overlong. But still - a good read that took me totally into a different world. I recommend it.

SCL_Justin Aug 05, 2017

Doc is the story of John Holliday and how he came from the south to Dodge City and got in with the Earps. There’s a small flash forward to the O.K. Corrall and the narrator talks a bit about his eventual death too, but the bulk of the story is about life in Dodge.

It’s all right. It’s good at doing the whole “stories about a person are not a person” theme. The writing keeps you involved. There’s a mystery but the plot is hardly the point. It’s a story about people in a lousy place, more of a document of what things might have been like than anything very plot-driven.

Sep 30, 2016

Really wonderful historic fiction - so well written. It was total entertainment in my opinion, the author did a superb job with her characters. It also made me curious to read an actual biography of this legendary man.

CMLibrary_gjd_0 Dec 28, 2015

My new reading tastes lean toward WESTERNS recently. Starting with this superb retelling of an old, familiar story. Takes place before everybody leaves for OK. A good story about a privileged young Southerner who can't stay in the South any longer due to his aliments.

Oct 29, 2015

engrossing story about a complex gunfighter who may not have been a villain at all

Oct 12, 2015

Mary Doria Russell is a gifted storyteller. She presents her characters based on historic research and then creates a compelling life narrative for them. This book is not about Tombstone and the OK Corral rather it's about the period before, when the Earp brothers and John 'Doc' Holiday first meet in Dodge City. Russell creates a fully fleshed and suffering Holiday who is slowly coughing his way to his early death because of TB. She points out that like many a historic figure, if it weren't for a notorious incident, in this case the OK shootout, Holiday and the Earp's would have passed unremarked into history. As it is, she captures the life of 'Doc' and his times in a work of exceptional creation.

Aug 25, 2015

Having read two of Mary Doria Russell's previous books, both science fiction, I approached this with caution. My previous knowledge of Doc Holiday was at best a caricature.

This book focuses on Doc's life in Dodge City, but touches on everything before and after. Plenty of spotlight is also shone on Wyatt Earp, which is perhaps why the author decided to write a sequel of sorts that focused on him and the famous OK Corral. These and other characters are complex and well fleshed out.

Have read three of Mary Doria Russell's books, encountering Jesuits three times. Is there a pattern here? I may have to read another just to find out.

Jul 21, 2015

Excellent fictional work about Doc Holliday that actually dispels many of the tall tales and legends that have sprung up around this consumptive, card-dealing dentist. The action is set in Dodge City, Kansas, years before the infamous shootout at the O.K. Corral. There's a rich cast of characters, and a realistic, compelling portrait of life in the notorious Dodge City. Not your typical shoot-'em-up Western!

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Jun 22, 2011

1878, Dodge City, Kansas Doc Holliday is given an awful choice at age 22, die with in months in Atlanta or leave and move to dry air and sunshine in the west. Friendship develops btwn Doc Holliday and Wyat Earp- Holliday becomes a gamble and lives with Kate and Hungarian whole who can quote Latin classics right back to Doc Holiday.

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