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Doc by Mary Doria Russell
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This novel is a rather different look at the life of John Henry "Doc" Holliday, famous (or infamous) friend and ally of the famous (or infamous) Earp brothers. The shootout at the OK Corral is epilogue, not centerpiece. After telling the tale of Holliday's upbringing in Georgia and his education as a dentist on the recommendation of his doctor uncle, who felt that medicine was becoming the realm of quackery while dentistry was becoming ever more scientific, the book focuses on what is presented as his one happy summer as an adult: the summer he met the Earp brothers in Dodge City, Kansas.

The new-minted dentist John Henry Holliday begins a promising young practice in Atlanta, but before too long comes to the painful realization that he's suffering from the same consumption (tuberculosis) that killed his mother. His uncle, Doctor Holliday, recommends that he move to the hot, dry southwest, and helps him locate a practice to join in Texas. All is well for a few, brief months--and then the Panic of 1873 happens. The dental practice can barely support its owner, and Holliday is out of a job. He gradually starts to support himself by gambling, and after a few years of sinking deeper and deeper into this life, he meets Kate Haroney, a smart, educated, former minor aristocrat who lost her entire family and position and is now supporting herself as a whore.

This is a partnership that will last, off and on, for the next decade, and it's also what brings Doc Holliday to Dodge City, where he meets the Earp brothers. And this is the meat of the story that Russell is telling, the story of the summer when Doc thought consumption might be loosening its grip on him, starts up a dental practice again, and forges a friendship with the Earp brothers, especially Morgan and Wyatt. It's the summer when Morgan and Wyatt get a painful education in politics, and the summer that another figure who will someday be famous, Bat Masterson, is also in Dodge and starting to fabricate the stories that will be the cornerstone of his fame. Russell gets us convincingly inside these heads, especially Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, and builds a compelling account of how and why they made the choices that led them to that fateful thirty seconds in the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. We also see the beginning of Bat Masterson's myth-making about them, especially Doc Holliday, and the great distance between reality and myth in the story of Holliday's career as gambler and gunslinger.

One of the most touching strands in this story is Holliday's commitment to the positive good that professional dentistry can make in people's lives, freeing them from pain, even while it's clear to him that he'll never support himself with dentistry. In fact, it's his gambling that enables him to support his dentistry. Another, almost equally touching thread is Wyatt's rehabilitation of the horse Dick Naylor.

While there are gunfights and brawls in Doc, this is not a story of western gunslinging derring-do. This is a thoughtful and compelling look at some major icons of the American west, before they were famous and when they never expected that a gunfight would become the central event of their lives.

Highly recommended.

I received a free galley of this book for review from the publisher. ( )
  LisCarey | Sep 19, 2018 |
i wish we could rate books on different criteria, and not just have it as one overall rating. anyway... this was my second audiobook. the negatives i feel over this book are all down to the narrator. i may get a bit rant-y. i know i am a audiobook newbie, and that listeners will have preferences for certain narrators. but, i developed some strong opinions on narration while listening to doc, even though my experience with audiobooks is very limited.

first, and very positively, russell's story is terrific. like, seriously good writing. she did an amazing job of evoking the places and times, and her characters were interesting and nuanced. my emotions ran the gamut while listening to this novel, and i appreciated very much the moments of humour russell created.

now... the not-so-good (sorry!!):

things started out very promising with mark bramhall as the narrator, though it did not take long for things to go off the rails. in the voice of the story's narrator, things were fine. bramhall offered a low, gravelly tone, with a slight drawl. though bramhall's not quite as deep in voice, imagine sam elliott reading to you. right? delightful and perfect for a western!!

so where did bramhall lose me? with pretty much every other voice he created, which felt like caricatures and, in some cases, stereotyped and...offensive. two chinese characters are voiced. i don't know what the heck bramhall was doing, but they were nasty. they were mock accents, with a bizarre eastern european blend thrown in for i don't know why? there is a character who is black and indigenous. again, wow. this voice was bad. so, so bad. women's voices were infuriating. the voice for a hungarian female character was a slappable offense. children's voices somehow managed to project narrator's condescension towards kids. wyatt earp was made to sound like he fell off a turnip truck. doc holliday... was not the worst. the saving grace here, i think, was that holliday's voice was low-key and quieter, a result of his poor and worsening health. bramhall was alright conveying these traits.

i was really left questioning how in the world this version of the audio recording became the published edition. HOW? how could no one else at any point in the process give pause and raise their concerns??? and i was also left wondering if mary doria russell was cool with this version?

here's the thing, though: this narration made me so angry, and yet i carried on. that is completely because russell's book is so good. i didn't want to quit on the story... just the narrator.

so if we could give ratings on various facets, the story gets between 4 and 5 stars. the narration gets 1 begrudging star.

i am giving 4... but with a serious caveat: read the paper version. don't listen to this audiobook.

/rant

oh, also: i have already started listening to the followup novel, [book:Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral|22535530]. hilary huber narrates this time and, so far, it's much better!

sorry. ( )
  Booktrovert | Aug 28, 2018 |
Well done. Surprising laugh out loud dialog added to my enjoyment while reading this book. After a little research, and based on my own memories, I expected a book about Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp to end in a shoot out at a corral. Big spoiler alert: it does not have the famous shot out, though it is referenced. I'll be reading the next book in the series, Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral, to learn more about that event/time. ( )
  mainrun | Aug 5, 2018 |
Like so many fans of The Doors front man, Jim Morrison.......I have fallen in love with a dead man. "He began to die when he was twenty-one, but tuberculosis is slow and sly and subtle." From the first line of Russell's novel, one feels empathy toward the young and soon to be wed Dr. John Henry Holliday. Yet, it is those wicked attributes of tuberculosis which make "Doc" Holliday's character so unique. His slow southern drawl, his sly wit and subtle mannerisms not to mention intelligence are just some of the qualities the young man possessed, qualities virtually unknown to the wild cowboys of the western frontier. Still, bustling Dodge City, Kansas in its heyday of cattle drives, prostitutes and gambling would be his home away from his much beloved and more refined home of Atlanta, Georgia.
I can go on and on about Holliday but this book is also about the men and women in his circle.
Legendary westerners such as Bat Masterson, the Earp Brothers and Kate Harony are also brought to life within these pages.
Russell throws in a little mystery and a little detective work which shed light on the times and the bias that was apparent back in the late 1800's.
I highly recommend this book! Although, Dodge City doesn't sound like a place I would want to live back in 1878 it is perfectly suitable place to be for 378 pages. I look forward to Russell's follow-up, Epitaph and the gunfight at the O.K. Corral! ( )
1 vote Carmenere | Aug 4, 2018 |
A good, interesting story about who the real Doc Holliday probably was. There is also a great deal about the people his life intersected with. Doc is not always the focus character. At the end, and even before I found myself wondering if anyone at all in the book had anything other than a rotten life, a rotten deal of the cards. This is an historical fiction but so much of it feels like history, real history and the portraits of people are not exactly flattering. This also feels stretched out a little bit - although it is usually interesting, it meanders and is not what I would call a page turner. One way of putting it is that my enthusiasm for the story kept getting sidetracked or interrupted by diversions.

Characters in this story come across as a lot different than the various portrayals on television and in films. ( )
  RBeffa | Jul 17, 2018 |
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Epigraph
This book is fiction, but there is always a chance that such a work of fiction may throw some light
on what has been written as fact.
—E. HEMINGWAY, A MOVEABLE FEAST
Dedication
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.
First words
He began to die when he was twenty-one, but tuberculosis is slow and sly and subtle.
Quotations
Ignore it, deny it, or fight it, change was inevitable.
He was, he believed, no longer prone to the paralyzing bouts of homesickness that used to overwhelm him, when the yearning for all he had lost was so powerful that his only defense was to hold himself still until the sorrow washed through him and left him empty again.
The heat was building under the roof of the hotel, but the air was dry and not so hard on him as the murderous swelter of a Southern summer. He closed his eyes and listened to the strangely lulling concert that Dodge in daylight produced. The brassy bellow of cattle, the timpani of hooves. A cello section of bees buzzing in the hotel eaves. The steady percussion of hammers: carpenters shingling the roof of a little house going up on a brand-new street extending north from Front.
The sunset beyond shone vermilion through the dust.
If you knew what was what, you made damn sure there was money sewn into seams, or gems hidden in hems—
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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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