INVENTING WYATT EARP: His Life and Many Legends by Allen Barra

INVENTING WYATT EARP: His Life and Many Legends

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A worthy attempt to prospect for facts amid the mists of myth and partisan hearsay long clouding the story of gambler and frontier marshal Earp, his brothers, friends, and foes, especially in the silver mining camp of Tombstone, Ariz. Barra, a Wall Street Journal sports columnist, finds Civil War passions lingering on as northern Republicans went west to establish business communities and dig for precious metals. They were looked upon by many cowboys and ranch owners from the recently vanquished South as Yankees, including the Earp brothers (from Illinois) and their friends---e.g., fiery, Georgia-born dead-shot dentist Doc Holliday, who joined the band of lawmen that tamed wild cow towns like Wichita and Dodge City before arriving in Tombstone itself. ""The entire frontier was a demimonde,"" Barra notes. He describes Tombstone as a place controlled by those who'd grown affluent through big-time cattle rustling and stage coach robberies (while approving a puppet sheriff and the local press). The outnumbered Earps and their allies met with their greatest challenge when confronting their entrenched opponents in that famed gunfight at the OK Corral; three of the outlaw ranchers were killed. The Earps were then made signal entries on the hit lists of their enemies, who bought the local press and used it to spread the notion that the Earps were rustlers and robbers. Barra cuts through most of the lies and lore, aided by his own research and the studies of credible historians (Utley and Nolan), to finally rate Earp as Strong, brave, honorable, intelligent--a loyal friend and a peacekeaeper, rather than just another compulsive gunfighter. In fact, he lived as a lawman on the frontier for only six years. His wife of nearly half a century, the Jewish actress Josephine Marcus, shared his later adventures in Hollywood and elsewhere. A thorough documentary revision of the Western genre's customary fantasy.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0803220588
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Carroll & Graf