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The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the…

The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral-And… (edition 2012)

by Jeff Guinn (Author)

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212955,047 (3.9)30
Title:The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral-And How It Changed the American West
Authors:Jeff Guinn (Author)
Info:Simon & Schuster (2012), Edition: Reprint, 416 pages
Collections:To read

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The Last Gunfight: THe Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral - and How It Changed the American West by Jeff Guinn



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This book is a big surprise. I expected a few interesting stories. But, WOW - it knocked my socks off! This book is a masterful weaving of history with elements of story in a novel style. Captured my interest and ran at full speed through the entire book. This book is a treasure!

I'm marking this author for more reads! ( )
  deldevries | Jan 31, 2016 |
After reading Doc by Mary Doria Russell, I wanted to delve a bit deeper. I only wish I'd read this first, as the "backstory" would have further enhanced my enjoyment of the novel. I enjoyed reading about the development of the frontier mining town of Tombstone and all the economic, political and social factors that played a role. This is well researched with extensive notes on where and how Guinn obtained his research. I really appreciated his explanations of where his source material came from and the problems inherent in many of the contemporary accounts. ( )
  Bluebird1 | Jan 16, 2016 |
As I read this book, couldn't help thinking of the famous line from "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance:" "This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

The famous "gunfight at the O.K. Corral" was nothing like how it is remembered in the popular mind. The notion of who the "good guys" and the "bad guys" were was very fluid. The whole event was the culmination of much miscommunication and misunderstanding, sent off by a drunk Ike Clanton. No one was really fighting for justice. The shootout didn't even take place at the O.K. Corral.

The principals Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday really had no right to become legends than any of the other people involved, but circumstance just happened to send hagiographers their way.

But while I kept thinking of the Liberty Valance quote, I also couldn't help reading the book with current events in mind. The "Wild West" in itself was something of a myth, not so wild in many respects as people might think. Consider the part that guns played in the culture, for instance. Most people neither owned nor carried guns. If a gun was needed (even by lawmen, sometimes), they either had to borrow or rent one. Only law officials usually carried them in holsters on their waists. When someone needed to carry a six-shooter, it was usually in a pocket or stuffed into the waist of his pants. And gun-toting was typically outlawed in towns--if someone had business to perform and had a gun, the gun had to be checked somewhere before he walked the streets. Measure that against today's mania for "concealed carry," with no limit as to where guns might be allowed.

Similarly, law enforcement took a different approach. When serving as officers of the law, the Earps were by no means "shoot first and ask questions later" types. They were known for subduing miscreants by walloping them upside the head before pulling a gun--even when the miscreants themselves had guns in their hands. The famous gunfight that got mis-placed at the O.K. Corral was a sad anomaly. Compare such approaches to law enforcement then with the too-many incidents of police officers being too-ready to resort early to deadly force.

If the "Wild West" was wild, what do we have today? ( )
  kvrfan | Apr 25, 2015 |
The gunfight at the OK Corral is an iconic episode in the American myth of the West. Guinn aims to, in the words of his subtitle, tell 'The real Story of the Shootout at the OK Corral - And How It Changed the American West'. He tells a good story with plenty of research about the background to this event through the history of the Earp clan and the development of the West during the middle of the 19th century. The settlement and development of Tombstone is particularly well-evoked, drawing out the local politics and rivalries common to any small town. Although he tries to show the Earps in general and Wyatt in particular as flawed heroes, I think in the context of their time they were no worse than most and generally on the side of good, even if it was mainly for money. Where the book falters is after the Shootout and in trying to justify the second part of Guinn's subtitle. The narrative becomes rather sketchy and focuses mainly on Wyatt Earp's attempts to cash-in on his notoriety after the event (and why not?). Tales from the American West circled the globe and fired imaginations everywhere driving out a mythical picture of that life that was generally believed and strengthened by popular press, cheap novels and the new media - film, radio - as it came along. Guinn does not explore this myth-making and does not, to my mind, satisfactorily explain this one event's part in that myth. ( )
  pierthinker | May 6, 2013 |
Subtitled “The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral – And How It Changed the American West,” this is the story of what really transpired among Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Doc Holliday, the Clantons, the McLaurys, inter alia. I read this because I heard the author talk about the book at the Tucson Festival of Books, and because Tombstone, Arizona is just down the highway a piece from us - a place where tourists usually want to go.

Jeff Guinn provides a family history of the Earps, with an emphasis on Wyatt, its most colorful and longest-lived member.

Forget about the long running TV show “Wyatt Earp” and several Hollywood movies. Wyatt spent more time as miner, saloon (and sometime brothel) keeper, and card sharp than he did as a law man. His primary motivation to become a sheriff or marshal was not to bring law to the community, but rather to become wealthy by keeping his share (usually 10%) of local taxes collected in various jurisdictions. His elder brother Virgil, however, spent most of his career as a U.S. Marshal.

Wyatt may have exaggerated his virtue, but he appears to have been just as tough as he claimed. Before coming to Tombstone, he established a reputation as an effective deputy marshal in Dodge City without killing anyone, relying on his ability to intimidate and, if necessary, pistol-whip unruly brigands. The TV series was accurate in this respect.

In the late 1880’s Tombstone was a boomtown whose economy was driven by nearby silver mines. It was populated not only by miners and prospectors (normally a pretty rough bunch), but also by another very rough group, mostly from Texas, known as the “cowboys.” The cowboys made their living primarily by rustling cattle, mostly from just over the border in Mexico. Local ranchers tolerated the cowboys because they could supplement their herds with rustled Mexican cattle.

By 1890, enough miners had become sufficiently wealthy to constitute a local gentry who wanted a modicum of law and order in the town. The cowboys were notoriously ill-behaved. Enter the Earps. Virgil became the local U.S. Marshal. Wyatt schemed to be elected county sheriff, a real plumb because of tax revenues, but lost an election to Johnny Behan. Instead, he had to content himself with earning his living playing cards and occasionally serving as his brother Virgil’s deputy.

A great deal of animosity developed between the Earps and some of the cowboys, particularly the Clanton and McLaury families. There was indeed a shootout, but it actually took place about a block away from the O.K. Corral. (The location of the gunfight came down into modern lore as the O.K. Corral, because that has a more memorable ring to it than “the vacant lot on Fremont Street.”)

Wyatt had a pretty good idea who was behind the attacks on his brothers, so he gathered Doc Holliday and a few other friends and took the law into his own hands. In the next few months, he and his posse went on what became known as the Vendetta Ride and executed three of the cowboys, gangland style. Wyatt and Doc were indicted for murder, so they left the Arizona territory. They were arrested in Colorado, but through the efforts of Bat Masterson, they were never extradited, there having been some rough justification for what they had done.

Wyatt tried to retain a ghost writer tell the story of his life, but his choice of authors was so bad that the project went nowhere. It was only after his death that the legend of the virtuous westerner who stands up for law and order with his gun became popular. Ironically, the generic term for such adventurers became “cowboy,” a term of opprobrium in Wyatt’s day.

Jeff Guinn concludes his well-told tale as follows:

"As for Wyatt Earp, who was both more and less than his legend insists, we can feel certain of this: He would be pleased by the way everything turned out, except for the fact that he never made any money from it.”

Evaluation: Guinn is an expert storyteller who makes the action move along almost like a novel. However, he is careful never to lose his role as historian and his conclusions about the effect of the Earps and the gunfight on American culture are measured and appropriate where other writers would be tempted to exaggerate. I would rate the book more highly if it had covered more socially significant subject matter. Nonetheless, it is a pleasant read about an interesting historical epoch and its modern reputation.

(JAB) ( )
  nbmars | Oct 18, 2012 |
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For Andrea Ahles Koos: Let no opinion go unexpressed.
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(Prologue) Virgil Earp was determined to sleep in on Wednesday, October 26, 1881.
If it had been up to Daniel Boone, America's frontier expansion would have begun with the creation of a new state named Transylvania.
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Book description
On the afternoon of Oct 26, 1881, in a vacant lot in Tombstone, Arizona, a confrontation between eight armed men erupted in a deadly shootout. The gunfight at the OK Corral shaped how future generations came to view the old West.
Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, and the Clantons became the stuff of legends, symbolic of a West populated by good guys in white hats and villains in black ones, and where law enforcement largely consisted of sheriffs and outlaws facing off at high noon on the main streets of dusty, desolate towns where every man packed at least one six-shooter on his hips. It's colorful stuff - but the truth is even better.
As The Last Gunfight. makes clear, the real story of the O.K. Corral and the West is far different from what we've been led to believe by countless TV Westerns and Hollywood films. Drawing on new material from private collections - including diaries, letters and Wyatt Earp's own hand-drawn sketch of the shootout's conclusion - as well as documentary research in Tombstone and Arizona archives and dozens of interviews, award-winning author Jeff Guinn gives us a startlingly different and far more fascinating picture of what the West was like, who the Earps and Doc Holliday and their cowboy adversaries really were, what actually happened on that cold day in Tombstone, and why.

The gunfight did not actually occur in the O.K. corral, and it was in no way a defining battle between frontier forces of good and evil. Combining new-found facts with cinematic storytelling, Guinn depicts an accidental if inevitable clash between competing social, political, and economic forces representing the old West of ruggedly independent ranchers and cowboys and the emerging new West of wealthy mining interests and well-heeled town folk.
With its masterful storytelling, fresh research, and memorable characters - the Earps, cattle rustlers, frontier prostitutes, renegade Apaches, and Tombstone itself, a beguiling hybrid of elegance and decadence - The Last Gunfight is both hugely entertaining and illuminating, and the definitive work on the Wild West's greatest shootout.
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A revisionist history of the Old West battle challenges popular depictions of such figures as the Earps and Doc Holliday, tracing the influence of a love triangle, renegade Apaches, and the citizens of Tombstone.

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