Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral
Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral shows the events leading to the show-down in Tombstone, Arizona, on October 26, 1881. In thirty seconds, three officers were wounded and three citizens killed in a shower of bullets that has now passed into legend. Author Maria Doria Russell places the event in historic and contemporary contexts, the struggle between personal liberty and societal order. In the moments before the confrontation, local sheriff Wyatt Earp asked a group of “cowboys” to disarm according to municipal policies. They refused, and the rest is history. The book takes us from the months leading up the confrontation and beyond, moving between the viewpoints of the Earp, Clanton, and McLaury clans, as well as that of legendary gunman John “Doc” Holliday, revealing the real people behind the legends.
The “shootout at the O.K. Corral” has become shorthand for the Wild West. Like most legends, it is pieced together of facts, misconceptions, and lies. For example, the confrontation itself didn’t even take place in a corral, but in an alley behind a photography shop. Doc Holliday, in legend a deadly marksman, was in reality a failed dentist with advanced tuberculosis. Does reality disappoint? Perhaps, but a major reason to read historic fiction is to learn the various versions of the story.
Mary Doria Russell