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Summary

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 20 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.

©2006 Gary L. Roberts (P)2019 Tantor

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  • Richard
  • 02-05-20

“Watch Tombstone?” You are an idiot

This book is very well researched and written in the Ken Burns style. If you are dumb piece of cod’s wallop just check out Tombstone. If you want to read a detailed, pleasant, informative book, this one is highly recommended. The previous reviewer is clearly not a golfer.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Joshua
  • 04-11-20

Doc Holliday

This book was okay. It's not that Roberts didn't put in the effort, or that the book isn't decently narrated, or even that it's not the best biography possible, it's that I'm not convinced a Doc-centric biography was a good idea, given the paucity of sources.

We simply know nothing of Holliday until he gets to Tombstone. The writer does his best, but you can tell he's trying to build on smoke. Here is the history of the Holliday clan, it must have affected John this way, had John been born with such-and-such a condition, it surely would have affected his development in the following ways, and so on, and so on. Must have, surely, of course, undoubtedly. When Doc moves out west, Roberts weighs the probabilities of him doing it to preserve his health vs fleeing justice for shooting black people vs a love affair gone south, and it's all carefully reasoned, but it's not explained why any of these is better than "the hell if I know."

As we approach the Gunfight at the O. K. Corral, things noticeably get better documented. The book settles into a Pro-Earp account of the Troubles, Gunfight, Hearing, and Vendetta Ride. Roberts doesn't wow as a storyteller, but I found interesting his portrait of the time and place, especially how the Cowboys fit into the larger picture. Apparently, these people were rustling so hard, it threatened an international incident. The remaining years of Doc's life, which I've only read summarized, gets a full account, which is appreciated.

The book ends with a solid chapter on his growing legend and film portrayals. His gradual movement into the Hollywood archetype of the Good Bad Guy seems fitting. He was an inkblot to people in life, why not in death?

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 28-07-20

history

I totally enjoyed the book learning a lot of things about this character, I have always had questions about his life that this book cleared up.

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  • Derek Shepard
  • 06-04-21

More of a history lesson

This book gets into a lot of details around the life and family/friends of Doc Holliday. It also seemed more of a history of the West and in some places seemed like I was reading a family tree. It was long but I enjoyed most of it.

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  • Rebel12th
  • 23-06-21

A very interesting listen.

This book solidified the picture in my mind of Doc Holliday. A deeply flawed man with as deep a burning sense of loyalty to his friends as a hatred towards his enemies.

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  • Nancy
  • 19-06-21

Meticulously Researched

If you’re an Old West history fan, which I am, you’ll really enjoy this detailed account of Doc Holliday. The true Doc Holliday is still a mystery as to what exactly made him tick, but I think this book gets close.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 22-03-21

Great book on doc Holliday

I didn’t know much about the legendary figure which is the subject of this book I had no idea what a complicated man he was the struggles he faced his disability and his inner demons I recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in learning about the legends of the west

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  • Palerider777
  • 28-02-21

It’s like the story that never ends and that’s not a good thing!

For a textbook of endless facts, admittedly some that where new, for college course on the Tombstone saga and the aftermath it not bad. Early chapters do focus on Doc but then he gets lost in the events leading up to and the aftermath the infamous shootout in Tombstone where the story takes on a decisively Earp brother tone. Doc does reappear later but after slogging through 1:30min chapters I was losing interest, feeling this was more an ordeal I must conquer rather than an enjoyable read that I wondered “would this ever end!”

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  • Jeffrey W. Williamson
  • 08-06-20

Great for lovers of the true frontier

I really enjoyed this book. It was as thorough as one can truly get on the subject of Doc Holliday and took into account many other sources on the man. While building the report of the real Doc, it also establishes the legendary character that so many have come to know through film. At no point does Roberts jump down that rabbit hole, however, to mislead the reader to believe the legend and only the legend.

Cons to this book: Some of the primary sources that are used (and I mean specific pieces) are repeated 2-3 times throughout. I mention this only because the citation stuck out enough the first time that it was incredibly noticeable the second. Now I can understand in context why it was used a second time, but I think a paraphrasing would have made the flow of the book just a bit more fluid.

Also, there are a couple of times in the performance that editing was a bit slack and they let some narrator slip ups remain in the audio.

Aside from that, I highly recommend this book. It will definitely stay in my collection.

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  • Tim Simpson
  • 18-05-20

best book on Holliday I have ever read or listened

most thorough book I have heard on Doc. this makes him real. I know a lot about this era and people and I love this book. and you will too