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Doc Holliday: The Life and Legend [Kindle Edition]

Gary L. Roberts
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)

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Book Description

"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."

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.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Roberts, an authority on western history, takes on John Henry Holliday, legendary gunman, drinker, gambler and dentist (hence "Doc"), best known for some adroit shooting at the OK Corral on October 26, 1881. This is part biography, part debunking of myths and part archive of accounts of the lives of Holliday and the Earp Brothers written from the time they were alive up to the present. Roberts is effective in evoking the influences that formed his subject's character. Born in Georgia in 1851, Holliday absorbed the manliness and rebelliousness instilled in young men of his prosperous class in antebellum Southern culture. Holliday also acquired expertise in drinking, whoring and gambling, as well as a taste for violence. Roberts is measured in evaluating the myths associated with Holliday's exit from Georgia and his nomadic life in Texas, Colorado and Arizona. This brings the author to Tombstone, and the fray featuring Holliday and the Earps against the Clantons and McLaurys. You can't beat this story for drama, and Roberts provides a step-by-step account of the gunfight. Some chapters are unduly packed with Roberts's massive research. But without it, the book would not have been what the author plainly intends—an omnibus of everything ever known, spoken or written about Doc Holliday. Photos not seen by PW. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Doc Holliday, one of the most famous western gunfighters, died of tuberculosis at the ripe old age of 36. But he left behind him a legend so immense that, even with the addition of this effusively sourced biography, the truth about the man may never be known. There are a few facts: Holliday was a dentist, he became a gambler and a gunslinger, and he was involved in the infamous gunfight at the OK Corral. But around Holliday has been constructed (by scholars, by outlaw-turned-author Bat Masterson, and by various Hollywood moviemakers) a life story that is made up substantially of myth and misunderstanding. The real John Henry Holliday, according to Roberts, was "a man seen almost entirely through the eyes of others." Roberts' role here is a bit like that of a judge, examining the testimonies and deciding which witnesses to believe and which to discard. The result is an engagingly written, persuasively argued, solidly documented work of scholarship that will surely take its place in the literature of the Old West. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 2327 KB
  • Print Length: 547 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0470128224
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (May 12, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0051BKXZA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #122,148 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent research, splotchy presentation. July 3, 2006
Any reader enjoying history, specifically the "Old West," will delight in the literary offerings associated with Tombstone in the 1880s. In particular, the Earp/Holliday/Cow-Boys saga is one with many tales, some based in fact, some in myth. Since the movies, "Tombstone" and "Wyatt Earp," we have been flooded with books centered on this fascinating story. The difficult part for a discerning reader however, is knowing which one is the closest to the "real" truth. I suspect we will never know which version encompasses the greatest percentage of accurate datapoints, but we still try. Gary Roberts has provided us with another chapter to consider, and while I consider Mr. Roberts a very skilled and masterful historian, he has had better efforts.

Roberts details the life of John Henry Holliday, from his birth in Georgia in 1851 to his death in Glenwood Springs, CO in 1887. The greatest portion of the book is spent during the time frame of Doc's introduction and frienship with the Earp brothers, but Roberts does spend time chronicaling Holliday's early life, including his foray into dentistry.

Much has been written and speculated regarding Holliday's reason(s) for leaving Georgia, although no definitive answer has been nailed down; Roberts is no exception here; rather, he presciently presents the primary theories of Doc's departure (a tainted affair with his cousin; or the health benefits of the western climate {Doc had consumption [TB]}; or escaping the grasp of the police in questioning a shooting that Doc may have been involved in). Take your pick, these seem to be the primary reasons historians provide for Doc's permanent departure of Georgia.

Doc basically drifted from Kansas to Texas, from dentistry to gambling.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Destined to become a classic... July 16, 2006
This is a long-awaited book that is destined to be a classic in American biography. Gary L. Roberts has captured the life and the legend of his fellow Georgian in a manner unlikely to be excelled in our lifetime. The highly respected Roberts, who has written dozens of articles about various aspects of western history over more than four decades, is Professor Emeritus of History at Abraham Baldwin College. He is the author of the acclaimed study of 19th century New Mexico mayhem, "Death Comes for the Chief Justice: The Slough-Rynerson Quarrel and Political Violence in New Mexico." This book is the culmination of a lifetime of his research into the life of the legendary gunfighting dentist.

Several other features make this a work apart. There is Roberts's vivid writing style, with prose that sparkles and at other times touches the reader to the core. This is especially true of the magnificently written final two chapters- lengthy analyses of the Doc Holliday legend this reviewer believes are destined to become classics- The Anatomy of a Western Legend, and The Measure of a Legend. Dr. Roberts brings to this field a wider view of western American history and its themes than most writers in this genre, placing Doc in the context of the Railroad Age, the coming of the Industrial Revolution to the American West, the closing of the frontier, and more. His feel for historical process enables him to deliver measured judgments that are convincing. His long immersion in Holliday research enables him to cite sources long unavailable.

Understanding Holliday's roots in antebellum Georgia, his boyhood Civil War trials, and the chaos of the Reconstruction Era comes naturally to this author from the Peach State.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Academic mayhem June 19, 2006
I purchased this book with high expectations, but I was disappointed. I've collected many of Roberts early writings, some of which are over 40 years old. I'd hoped his Doc Holliday book would represent that same sense of style, imagination and enthusiasm that marked his early writings. Forty years ago his words had energy but his latest effort gives us lots of words, but no heart. The author speaks as an academic historian, or an encylopaedist of all things Holliday without much in the way of narrative or oratory.

Perhaps the author should have taken a more 'popular history' approach in the writing of this book. As the late great Steven Ambrose once wrote 'The important thing about History is the last five letters of the word.' There are those who believe that no serious study of history could-or should-be undertaken and enjoyed as entertainment. They are wrong. You can write 'popular' and still stive to get your facts straight. The late Shelby Foot said it best 'What the academics have done to history, equating facts with truth is a murderous thing. The truth is how the facts came into being, what effect the facts had, not the facts themselves.'

Unfortunately, I found that this book soon bogs down in distracting and unnecessary minutia that is certain to further confuse the casual reader. Old hands familiar with the Earp/Holliday tail can slog through due to their prior story knowledge. It appears to this reviewer that the author wrote the book while keeping one eye over his shoulder looking for forthcoming attacks from fellow researchers and the internet. As a result the author avoids conclusions or presents weak arguments.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by john c buckley sr
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive Biography of Doc Holliday
I found this book extremely interesting and very thorough, and is very useful when it comes to evaluating the other articles etc. on Holliday one finds, especially on the internet. Read more
Published 1 month ago by M. J. Brathwaite
5.0 out of 5 stars ... this for a huge Doc Holiiday fan and they loved the book
Brought this for a huge Doc Holiiday fan and they loved the book.
Published 1 month ago by KeinekoWind
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book about the life and legend of Doc Holliday
Great book about the life and legend of Doc Holliday. Provides some interesting information and insights (e.g. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Tom Monahan
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly but still fascinating. A "must read" for anyone interested...
Dry as toast, but still the definitive scholarly book on the life of John Henry Holliday.
Published 2 months ago by Richard Dean Starr
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A+, fast and well packed shipping; as described.
Published 2 months ago by DANA W. VAN VALIN
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Great Book
I read some of the posts saying there was too much extra info in this book and now have to laugh. The delight in Doc Holliday is not that he was Abraham Lincoln and worthy of 500... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Garth Gartrell
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Good historical account. Nice read. A good book to add to one's historical nonfiction collection and read more than once. An interesting book to take on travel.
Published 5 months ago by rural writer
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read.
The book was very interesting in several areas which I was not aware of relative to the extreme amount of travel that was done during this period of his life after leaving his home... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Chuck
4.0 out of 5 stars Purchased via Kindle, Great for History Buffs
If you're a fan of the Old West and you'd like to learn a bit more about Val Kilmer....I mean, John Henry 'Doc' Holliday, then you're in for a treat with this fine work by Gary L. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Joseph
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