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Doc by Mary Doria Russell
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Doc (edition 2012)

by Mary Doria Russell

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9331269,346 (4.13)545
Member:Athabasca
Title:Doc
Authors:Mary Doria Russell
Info:Ballantine Books (2012), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 432 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:western

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Doc by Mary Doria Russell

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Doc primarily takes place in Dodge City, Kansas in 1878 where John Henry “Doc” Holliday is hoping to make enough money gambling to open a dentistry practice with his cousin. The majority of the story is true, but the book is a historical fiction novel about the life and times of Holliday, known in history for his association with the Earp brothers. He and the Earps are famous for the shootout at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, but that is not the focus of Doc." Russell begins and ends her book with single chapters that give the highlights of Doc's life before and after her story's setting in Dodge City, Kansas.

Doc, a Georgia native suffering from tuberculosis, moves west for his health, making his way to Dodge City to play poker and work as a faro dealer. There he takes up with the Earps, a prostitute named Kate, and a mixed race boy named Johnny Sanders, whose death in a suspicious barn fire lead both Doc and Wyatt to investigate why everyone else was able to escape the fire in the Famous Elephant Barn but this young man died.

The author fills her story with a wealth of both fictional and historical characters to create a riveting look into some of the most interesting personalities in the Old West, including the Earps and Bat Masterson. There is plenty of rich historical data included with the fictional portions of this story and the two meld together to make the story very real.

Doc Holliday was a very complex person. In this novel we get a detailed picture of a loquacious, tubercular man who seems always just a step away from death. He was a highly educated and cultured Southern gentleman with a weakness for sartorial affectations and a love of fine literature, beautiful music, and foreign languages. He also knows that he is a dying man. At one point he meets a young woman who doesn't yet know she has tuberculosis but Doc recognizes her symptoms. He discourages her visits to him while he is ill because he feels he is “the ghost of Christmases yet to come.” Doc's tuberculosis is almost a character of its own.

The interaction between the characters and the beautiful turns of phrase makes this book a wonderful reading experience. The old west and Doc Holliday vividly come to life as do all of the characters. Kate, who was also known as Katie Elder and “Big Nose” Kate, worked as a prostitute even as she was living with him. She maintained a complex relationship with Doc who considered her his intellectual equal.

I loved this book and would highly recommend it for a fascinating look at the complicated man behind his legend.

" ( )
  Olivermagnus | Jun 16, 2016 |
Narrator is good, can do a southern drawl and a texan twang well enough to make for easy listening. I almost stopped listening at the beginning, though, because of the huge list of characters - to which I cannot easily refer as I could if reading a paper book. But my lifestyle this season begs for MP3 & playaway stories, so I'm persisting.

--------

Actually, I'm quitting. The narrator's voice changes got silly when he did women and villians, and was, to me, soporific when doing the rest of the reading. I just couldn't concentrate.

It does seem like it might be a very good book for the right reader or listener, though, so don't let my comments discourage you.
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 5, 2016 |
Doc – Mary Doria Russell

5 stars

What would you expect from a book about the legendary Doc Holliday? Cowboys? Shootouts? Dance hall girls? Well, you won’t be disappointed; all of those elements are in this historical novel by Mary Doria Russell. I am not a reader of Westerns. I was only vaguely familiar with the O.K. Corral, Bat Masterson and the Earp brothers. I didn’t know what to expect.
The first thing Ms Russell did to help me out was to provide a list of “The Players.” All of the book’s characters (including significant animals) are listed with their relationships to each other and their locations. The few fictional characters are listed in italics; the rest are historical. Chapter by chapter the book is organized like a poker game from Ante to Cashing Out.

The primary dealer of the game is John Henry Holliday D.D.S., better known as Doc Holliday. We learn a little of his early years in Georgia. Some mention is made of the famous shootout and his tragic later years, but for most of the story Russell takes us to Dodge City, Kansas. You will find the expected cowboys, shootouts and dance hall girls. You will also learn a great deal about late nineteenth century dentistry and the scourge of tuberculosis. The legendary frontier names become more than cartoon characters. They are real, living, breathing, sinning, suffering human beings. Doc Holliday emerges as a highly educated, cultured Southern gentleman. He takes pride in his professional expertise and feels a responsibility to his patients. He also knows well that he is a dying man. Holliday’s progressive tuberculosis becomes an additional character in the story. It moves like a ghost, gripping Holliday and other Dodge City residents.

Russell has done her research. She integrates quotes from letters and memoirs throughout the story. I had an image of the aging remnants of the frontier, sitting in porch chairs retelling the way it really happened. I have never been a fan of Westerns, but I continue to be impressed with Mary Doria Russell. She’s motivated me to read some non-fiction accounts of these fascinating characters.



( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
I’m a huge Mary Doria Russell fan and I was very interested in learning more about an enigmatic historical figure (in a fictionalized format that I can more easily digest). The time period of the story covers Doc’s residence in Dodge City, Kansas – and I know that the stories of the Earp brothers and John Holliday are intertwined - but I couldn’t help feeling that Wyatt and Morgan Earp stole the show. It was very distracting and made the story’s pace feel choppy and uneven. The purely fictional characters she invented to round out the story (Jau Dong-Sing and John Horse Sanders) were more compelling in my opinion that the Earps.

Russell paints a portrait of a very proud, intelligent, cultured and *young* dentist dying of tuberculosis. Also fascinating is the portrait of his disturbed mate “Katie Elder”, who was born to European nobility, the daughter of the court physician of Emperor Maximilan I of Mexico. Maria Katarina Harony deserves a book of her own.
( )
  memccauley6 | May 3, 2016 |
4 1/2 stars (rounded down to 4 on my shelf)

Doc is the story of Doc Holliday's life from his childhood in Georgia until he makes the decision to travel to Tombstone (it does not include the incidents at the OK Corral, I assume that is covered in Epitaph). This was excellent historical fiction. Russell really brought the characters and their time alive. She took legendary figures such as Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp and presented them as real people rather than the larger than life characters they are often portrayed as. I appreciate the effort that Russell made to be as historically accurate about these men and women as possible given the information available about them ( )
  Cora-R | Apr 11, 2016 |
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For Art Nolan, who told me what Wyatt knew; for Eddie Nolan, who showed us what John Henry had to learn; for Alice McKey Holliday, who raised a fine young man; with thanks to Bob Price and Gretchen Batton.
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He began to die when he was twenty-one, but tuberculosis is slow and sly and subtle.
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Book description
The year is 1878, peak of the Texas cattle trade. The place is Dodge City, Kansas, a saloon-filled cow town jammed with liquored-up adolescent cowboys and young Irish hookers. Violence is random and routine, but when the burned body of a mixed-blood boy named Johnnie Sanders is discovered, his death shocks a part-time policeman named Wyatt Earp. And it is a matter of strangely personal importance to Doc Holliday, the frail twenty-six-year-old dentist who has just opened an office at No. 24, Dodge House.

And that is where the unlikely friendship of Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp really begins—before Wyatt Earp is the prototype of the square-jawed, fearless lawman; before Doc Holliday is the quintessential frontier gambler; before the gunfight at the O.K. Corral links their names forever in American frontier mythology—when neither man wanted fame or deserved notoriety.

Authentic, moving, and witty, Mary Doria Russell’s fifth novel redefines these two towering figures of the American West.
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After the burned body of a mixed-blood boy, Johnnie Sanders, is discovered in 1878 Dodge City, Kansas, part-time policeman Wyatt Earp enlists the help of his professional-gambler friend Doc Holliday.

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