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Doc Holliday: The Life and Legend
     

Doc Holliday: The Life and Legend

3.6 21
by Gary L. Roberts
 

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"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."
-Booklist

In Doc Holliday: The Life and Legend, the historian

Overview

"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."
-Booklist

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

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 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Who was Doc Holliday, the famed participant in the 1881 gunfight at OK Corral? Was he a killer and professional cutthroat, a reckless murderer, or a mild-mannered young man who would give aid to his friends, whatever the fight? Roberts (history, emeritus, Abraham Baldwin Coll.) considers these contrasting opinions as he relates John Henry "Doc" Holliday's life, a difficult task because Doc left no reminiscences, and the letters he wrote to family members were destroyed. The portrait that emerges is based on available newspaper stories and public records, which allow Roberts to show how Doc, who grew up in Georgia during the Civil War and received a DDS degree from the College of Dental Surgery in Philadelphia, was a product of his circumstances. For example, he had tuberculosis and headed west in an effort to extend his life in the drier climate. Where the facts and reasons are not known, Roberts carefully considers the alternatives based upon the evidence. As he carefully points out, his work cannot be definitive but is an attempt-and a very sound one-to understand a man whose biography and legend will be forever entwined. Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries.-Stephen H. Peters, Northern Michigan Univ. Lib., Marquette. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
Who was Doc Holliday, the famed participant in the 1881 gunfight at OK Corral? Was he a killer and professional cutthroat, a reckless murderer, or a mild-mannered young man who would give aid to his friends, whatever the fight? Roberts (history, emeritus, Abraham Baldwin Coll.) considers these contrasting opinions as he relates John Henry "Doc" Holliday's life, a difficult task because Doc left no reminiscences, and the letters he wrote to family members were destroyed. The portrait that emerges is based on available newspaper stories and public records, which allow Roberts to show how Doc, who grew up in Georgia during the Civil War and received a DDS degree from the College of dental Surgery in Philadelphia, was a product of his circumstances. For example, he had tuberculosis and headed west in an effort to extend his life in the drier climate. Where the facts and reasons are not known, Roberts carefully considers the alternatives based upon the evidence. As he carefully points out, his work cannot be definitive but is an attempt-and a very sound one-to understand a man whose biography and legend will be forever entwined. Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries.
—Stephen H. Peters, Northern Michigan Univ. Lib., Marquette. (Library Journal, March 15, 2006)

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.) (Publishers Weekly, February 27, 2006)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780470128220
Publisher:
Wiley
Publication date:
08/10/2007
Pages:
544
Sales rank:
158,199
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.48(d)

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"Gary Roberts is one of a foremost of writers who has created a real literature and authentic history of the so-called Western. His exhaustively researched and beautifully written Doc Holliday: The Life and Legend reveals a pathetically ill and tortured figure, but one of such intense loyalty to Wyatt Earp that it brought him limping to the O.K. Corral and into the glare of history."
—Jack Burrows, author of John Ringo: The Gunfighter Who Never Was

"Gary L. Roberts manifested an interest in Doc Holliday at a very early age, and he has devoted these past thirty-odd years to serious and detailed research in the development and writing of Doc Holliday: The Life and Legend. The world knows Holliday as Doc Holliday. Family members knew him as John. Somewhere in between the two lies the real John Henry Holliday. Roberts reflects this concept in his writing. This book should be of interest to Holliday devotees as well as newly-found readers."
—Susan McKey Thomas, cousin of Doc Holliday and co-author of In Search of the Hollidays

"Doc Holliday emerges from the shadows for the first time in this important work of Western biography. Gary L. Roberts has put flesh and soul to the man who has long been one of the most mysterious figures of frontier history. This is both an important work and a wonderful read."
—Casey Tefertiller, author of Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend

"The history of the American West is full of figures who have lived on as romanticized legends. They deserve serious study simply because they have continued to grip the public imagination. Such was Doc Holliday, and Gary Roberts has produced a model for looking at both the life and the legend of these frontier immortals."
—Robert M. Utley, author of The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull

"Splendid . . . not only the most readable yet definitive study of Holliday yet published, it is one of the best biographies of nineteenth century Western 'good-bad men' to appear in the last twenty years. It was so vivid and gripping that I read it twice."
—Howard R. Lamar, Sterling Professor of History Emeritus, Yale University and author of The New Encyclopedia of the American West

"Gary Roberts has written the most thoroughly researched and comprehensive biography of Doc Holliday in existence. Highly readable and insightful, it is an absolute must for all scholars and fans of the Old West."
—Roger D. McGrath, author of Gunfighters, Highwaymen, & Vigilantes

Meet the Author

Gary L. Roberts, Emeritus Professor of History, Abraham Baldwin College, is widely recognized as a historian of the American West and frontier violence. He has published more than seventy-five articles on Western history and coedited a book on Georgia politics. He is the author of Death Comes for the Chief Justice: The Slough-Rynerson Quarrel and Political Violence in New Mexico.

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Doc Holliday 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In ¿Doc Holliday: The Life and Legend¿ Gary Roberts immediately establishes his credentials in historical research and although he comes from a life in academia, that never inhibits his storytelling ability. Roberts tells about a young Atlanta dentist, his family conflicts, the relationship with his catholic cousin Mattie Holliday, contracting tuberculosis and then moving west. Doc continues his dental practice in Dallas where he is attracted to saloon life and becomes a skilled gambler. In Ft. Griffin, Texas Kate Elder sets her sights on Doc and when trouble comes and a noose is about to be tied around Doc¿s neck Kate executes a daring escape plan and the two of them ride north to Dodge City, Kansas where they begin a tumultuous relationship. Doc sets up a dental practice in the cattle town and establishes good relations with the likes of Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Luke Short and Eddie Foy. When a wild bunch of drunken cowboy¿s corner assistant city Marshall Wyatt Earp Doc hurries to his rescue. Wyatt is grateful to Doc and that was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. Later they wind up in Tombstone, Arizona. A corrupt political ring runs Cochise County and uses a cowboy faction as muscle. Wyatt¿s intent to run for Cochise County Sheriff on a ticket of law and order opens up a hornet¿s nest. When the showdown comes Doc joins Wyatt and his brothers on the side of law and order in the shootout at the OK Corral. Ring lawyers accuse the Earps and Holliday of murder and take them to court. A twenty-eight day hearing, before Judge Spicer, frees Doc and the others but the cowboy¿s won¿t quit. They harass the mayor and Judge Spicer, ambush and wound Virgil Earp and assassinate Morgan Earp. Roberts continues the post Tombstone story with Jail time for Doc in Denver and a shooting episode in Leadville. Then on November 8, 1887 Doc succumbs to tuberculosis and is buried in Linwood Cemetery at Glenwood Springs, Colorado. You will enjoy this engaging and informative book while getting to know the man behind the legend. Tom Barnes author of ¿Doc Holliday¿s Road to Tombstone.¿
Guest More than 1 year ago
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, and is the acclaimed 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 research into the life of the legendary gunfighting dentist, and Roberts often harkens back to sources he tapped many decades ago, sources long unavailable. Several features make this a work apart. There is Roberts¿s vivid writing style, with prose that sparkles and at 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 are interested in studying, 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. Roberts¿ understanding of 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. Readers will find much new material on many figures and episodes, and this reviewer found the bringing of Doc¿s sometime paramour Big Nose Kate to life particularly believable. Kate is a real human being for perhaps the first time in western letters. Yet the author does not claim to have the final word on the intriguing figure of John Henry Holliday true historian that he is, he understands historical writing as part of an ongoing dialogue. To that end he has used a prodigious amount of modern research, seemingly leaving no stone unturned, and has listed his sources in a detailed and admirable section of annotated endnotes that scholars will be using for years to come. The photographs sprinkled throughout the text will add to the reader¿s experience. Readers interested in the sagas of Dodge City, Tombstone, and the single most famous stand-up and face each other gunfight in the history of the American West, and yet who want more than the Hollywood versions of these, will want to read this book. Doc Holliday, The Life and Legend, makes a fine companion to the 1997 biography Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend by Roberts¿s research colleague Casey Tefertiller. It is unlikely an accident that the titles of both books are similar. Both books have advanced our understanding of these two household names, and Roberts here has deepened our knowledge of not only the life, but the context of the life and the development and meaning of the legend of Doc Holliday.
AircraftLover More than 1 year ago
This book is very well researched, though the author does make a few assumptions. It is one of the best books I've read on Doc, especially academically. I applaud the author's tremendous and well done, thorough research, as he well deserves. I was a health care provider for 40+ years and became disabled due to a disease that ends with deafness and being bed-fast, nauseated and dizzy. When you love your profession as I did, I planned to work into my seventies; and become disabled with a bleak future. When you have lived with dying for a long time, you become, fearless, friendless, and strive to live in a way that will make you yourself proud, with honor and caring. People really don't want to become or stay friends with a person with a death sentence. I too am a good shot, however a lousy gambler. I feel I have much in common with Doc. I do not believe he was a low, drunken, killer. I believe he lived as best he could and with honor, and my research appears to indicate he only shot to save his own or another's life. These, assumption, are based on my own personal experience which is much the same as Doc's. Congratulations on an excellent read.
RDB53 More than 1 year ago
This is a very detailed account of Doc. Holliday's life from every source the writer could locate. I have to believe this is the best book about Holliday. Gary Roberts does not defend or place blame for any of Hollidays life, just reports it in a very readable style.
Rolanni More than 1 year ago
As Mr. Roberts explains in his introduction, Doc Holliday died without leaving much in the way of personal papers behind him. What he did leave, years of correspondence with a beloved cousin, was destroyed by a relative after her death. So, what modern researchers have left is extrapolations of Doc, and various solid dates, borne up by deeds, death records, newspaper articles, and diplomas. The rest...is speculation. Since I don't read biography for speculation, I gave up on this book when the speculation for Doc's sudden remove to Texas kept on rolling long after my patience had given way. I really wish there had been more source material; I would have loved to read a biography of Doc Holliday.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After reading 500 pages. You still do not no what kind of a person was he. Did he rob and kill. Or was he a peace keeper or as I think he was both. Read the book and let us no what you think.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The first 300 pages are mainly about Wyatt Earp and his brothers. An occasional paragraph popped up concerning Doc Holliday which barely held my interest.
glauver More than 1 year ago
Other reviewers seem split on this book - they either love or hate it. While I think Roberts did a fine job as far as not inventing new facts or accepting old legends, the book seems padded to me. Perhaps 50 pages less of supposition would have made this a better read. Doc left so little of himself behind that he makes a difficult subject for a biography and there is no way to decide if he was hero or villian.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Wow - what an intriguing account, written by one of the best authorities on the Old Western Frontier. Books don't get any better than this, and if you have ANY interest in the names Wyatt Earp, Ike Clanton, or Doc Holliday, you MUST BUY THIS BOOK !! You will find yourself 'walking back in time', like 'you're in the story itself'. The HIGH ANXIETY of the incredible tangles associated with lawmen, judges, prosecutors, witnesses, Cow-Boys, revenge, and so forth, will keep your heart rate moving at a clip! I strongly recommend this book, and commend the author for an OUTSTANDING piece of work, so detailed and thorough, and yet so readable!! BUY THIS BOOK for yourself, or as a gift! It will remain a FAVORITE in your home library!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book should really be entitled The TIMES And Life Of Doc Holliday. It was very slow to develop and read more like a history text book rather than a biography. The first third of the book has way to many names and dates and minimally related events. Robert's obsessive concern with backing up his writings with facts, names and quotes seems to over ride the development of the novel. The book was informative but challenging to read and and related less to Doc Holliday, the person than I would have liked. Overall I felt I learned a lot but more about the times rather than about Doc. The second half of the book does do a better job allowing the reader to feel they were getting to know Doc.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author claims that his biography of the notorious Western gunslinger is not the definitive one, but it's difficult to believe that more information about Doc Holliday will be unearth any time soon. Here is a well-crafted portrait of a tragic figure, a lonely, cultured Southern gentleman, dying of tuberculosis, who may have been a successful businessman and pillar of the community as a practicing dentist, but who had too many inner demons to battle--one of which may have been unrequited love--to be content with respectability. A gambler, a drunkard, a dangerous gunslinger, courageous according to the Southern code of honor but not fatalistic, a devoted friend to Wyatt Earp and a feared enemy to everyone who betrayed him. His exploits in Tombstone turned him into a true American legend, whose actual life may be always obscured by the tall tales spun about him. But he has cast a long shadow over our knowledge of the Old West, and the tapestry of American nineteenth-century history would not be as rich without him. Wherever he is, may he be resting in peace, and may the author of this fine biography be thanked for writing about him.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Roberts book, another attempt to capture something unique, has fallen short of its presumed goal of a 'new' offering concerning an American Western legend. Starting out, kudos to Gilchriese and Bartholomew as noted historians that contributed to his work,Roberts might as well have included Pinochio to form a trio of nose growers. Not crediting Glenn Boyer (with Bill Bork) as the premier Big Nose Kate researcher is more than ridiculous, and perhaps, a personal slight. Finally, many errors crop up within the text, such as on page 197 where Roberts is taking us thru the famous October '81 street fight: '....Tom McLaury grabbed his coat lapels and threw them back.....' It is well documented by serious historians that Tom was wearing a shirt and had NO coat. This effort was disappointing and offered nothing new to the West's most famous dentist.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books I've read and I plan on buying it next chance i get. If you've ever been interested in Doc Holliday, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, or the wild west, you need to read this! Just after reading this I watched Tombstone and took a special interest in guns. It makes you want to go back in time and meet the infamous Doc Holliday!