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WYATT EARP by Casey Tefertiller

WYATT EARP

The Life Behind the Legend

By Casey Tefertiller

Pub Date: Oct. 17th, 1997
ISBN: 0-471-18967-7
Publisher: Wiley

 This biography of the controversial western lawman, by a former San Francisco Examiner writer, uses newly found primary sources and exhaustive archival research to uncover the real man obscured by myths, tall tales, and calumnies. Tefertiller's version of Earp finds, amid some unpleasant elements, a real core of heroism. He had a penchant for gambling and saloon life, was an energetic womanizer, and had a habit of applying undue force in arresting suspects. Yet he was also, as Tefertiller documents, indisputably courageous. His varied and colorful career included time as a security guard on Wells Fargo stagecoaches, prospecting, running faro games, and speculating on western lands and mines. Most famously, though, he served as a town sheriff and a US marshall. That Earp could be at various times a gambler and a marshall should not, the author suggests, seem all that startling: Gamblers were highly esteemed figures in the demimonde of the wide open towns of the frontier. Men familiar with violence seemed to these communities to be the ideal choice to establish order. During his term as marshall of Tombstone, Ariz., Earp did just that, confronting rustlers, robbers, and gunmen, bringing them to justice or occasionally shooting it out with them, most famously in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Earp's actions inevitably brought him into conflict with powerful, autocratic ranchers and corrupt politicians. The charges that blackened Earp's reputation, Tefertiller argues, were largely fictions circulated by his enemies, who planted stories about him in pliant frontier newspapers. Using a wide variety of primary sources, Tefertiller manages to summon up a human, complex figure and, while not omitting flaws, to persuasively demonstrate that Earp believed in the law and did his best in hard times to defend it. A great adventure story, and solid history. (42 photos, not seen)