DOC HOLLIDAY'S WOMAN by Jane Candia Coleman


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 A rushed and incident-filled first novel about Kate Elder, lover of Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp, told from the woman's point of view. This time out, Coleman (Discovering Eve, etc; the nonfiction Shadow in My Hands, 1993) simulates oral history in a story she culled from period diaries, research, and interviews with Kate Elder's relatives. This frontier woman, born Mary Katharine Harony, travels with her parents from Hungary to Mexico, and then to Kansas. In 1866, her parents die, and young Mary is given into the care of a nearby farmer. When her guardian rapes her, she kills him and flees to St. Louis before heading west. There, Kate marries a gambler named Silas, but the marriage ends when both he and her son die of the plague. Shortly thereafter, she meets Doc. ``You look like hell in black,'' he tells her, but Kate's taken with his tubercular brand of humor and falls in love. Later, she'll kill a deranged man in self-defense, whereupon Doc hides her, becomes her lover, and arranges for her to flee to Wichita with a man who's then killed. Enter Wyatt Earp, his blue eyes as piercing as steel, who introduces her to local madam Honest Bessie. After a brief stint as a prostitute, Mary Harony, now known as either Kate Elder or Big Nose Kate, eventually makes her way back to Doc: ``I could never make our separations stick,'' she says. Together, they travel through Indian Territory on the standard western tour until Doc hooks up with Earp (each was ``part of the other's destiny'') and they do the deed to the Clantons at the OK Corral. Only Kate lives to tell the tale. In the fast, flushed tone of a memoir, Coleman limns the familiar Wild West saga with a feminist slant. This isn't revisionist history exactly, but, rather, a workmanlike treatment of a period of perpetual interest.

Pub Date: May 11th, 1995
ISBN: 0-446-51825-5
Page count: 288pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1995


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