Sorting through the innumerable legends about Wyatt Earp and his brothers is a monumental task, but Allen Barra, a sports columnist for the Wall Street Journal and a lifelong devotee of western lore, has tried mightily to sort the fact from fiction to determine once and for all if the Earps were heroes or villains. Judging by the cascade of films, books, and TV shows that have portrayed the Earps and their pal "Doc" Holliday, some people simply can't get enough of the legends, and those folks will find Inventing Wyatt Earp fascinating.
The central event of the Earp story is the fabled gunfight near Tombstone's O.K. Corral, a violent eruption in a simmering feud between, believe it or not, frontier Democrats and Republicans. Barra delves deeply into the motivations of all the participants and those who would later tell their stories, and he deserves credit for conducting his prodigious research with skepticism. However, the thoroughness of Barra's approach is a double-edged sword: his relentless examination of Earp's life and the various accounts of it can at times lead the narrative into a blinding sandstorm of minor details. Nonetheless, for those with a strong interest in sorting out the truth about the legends of Tombstone, this book is a valuable source. --Robert McNamara
On October 26, 1881, Wyatt Earp, his two brothers, and Doc Holliday shot it out with a gang of cattle rustlers near the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. It was over in half a minute, but those thirty violent seconds turned the thirty-three-year-old Wyatt Earp into the stuff of legend.
In truth, however, the gunfight at the O.K. Corral neither launched nor climaxed a career that in the course of eighty-two colorful years took Wyatt Earp from an Iowa farm to the movie studios of Hollywood, where he worked as an advisor on Western films. Along the way he saw real-life action as a buffalo hunter, bodyguard, detective, bounty hunter, gambler, boxing referee, prospector, saloon keeper, and, on occasion, a superb lawman.
This authoritative biography tells Wyatt Earp’s story in all its amazing variety—a story the celebrated lawman shares with the likes of Bat Masterson, Earp’s colleague on the Dodge City police force; the tubercular, gun-toting southern gentleman Doc Holliday; and Josephine Sarah Marcus, a beautiful Jewish girl from New York City who lived and traveled with Earp throughout the last forty-seven years of his life. Biographer Allen Barra also examines the more fantastic versions of Earp’s exploits told during his own lifetime, as well as his incarnations in the myths that have flourished in our national imagination throughout the seventy years since his death.
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