From the dusty trails of the Old West emerges the story that Wyatt Earp’s wife never wanted told: her own.
A simple question from a friend about why Earp was buried in a Jewish cemetery prompted Kirschner (Dean of Macaulay Honors College at CUNY; Sala’s Gift: My Mother’s Holocaust Story, 2006) to uncover the truth of Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp, the fourth wife and most constant companion of the famed frontier hero. The author mines letters, archives and manuscripts to tell Josephine’s story, panning for gold in a very muddy family history. After the showdown at the O.K. Corral and long before his death, newspapers and local lore had already made a legend of Wyatt and his family, with plenty of controversy and inconsistencies to fuel it further. To make matters more complicated, beautiful and theatrical Josephine was hard at work on her own self-made myth, burying her poor, Jewish origins and obscuring the more tragic, scandalous and, consequently, interesting periods of her life. From Tombstone to Nome to Los Angeles, Josephine created a maze of challenges for her future biographers, all of which Kirschner handles skillfully. Even with all of the rootless couple’s many adventures to recount, nearly half the book is an untangling of the drama that began just a few years before Wyatt’s death in 1929 and continued through the rest of Josephine’s life and into the next century. With vividness and certainty, Kirschner lays her story to rest at last.
Tragedy, adventure, romance and scholarly investigation come together like pioneers to a boomtown, with something for Earp worshipers and casual readers alike.