BLOODY SEASON by Loren D. Estleman
Kirkus Star


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An extraordinary Western: rawhide-tough semidocumentary fare about the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, by the three-time winner of the Golden Spur Award and author of the popular Amos Walker mystery series. Here, Estleman strips away the glory from a comer of the Western myth to reveal a band of rude and ruthless men lording it over a brutal land. ""He was dying faster than usual that morning, striping the sides of the dry sink with bloody sputum and shreds of shattered lung,"" writes Estleman of the alcoholic Doc Holliday--the first in a fusillade of tight, bright images that vivify the notorious shoot-out that left three dead and catapulted Wyatt Earp (and his brothers) and Holliday to folk-hero's fame. A pistol-hot, bone-spare replay of the gunfight and its immediate aftermath--the tending of the wounded Earps; the autopsies of Billy Clanton and Tom and Frank McLaury; the coroner's inquest--leads into a punchy reconstruction of the events that triggered the Corral showdown. Beginning with the foiled stagecoach robbery that sparked the feud between Earps (twisted law officers) and McLaurys (outlaws), Estleman depicts all concerned as trigger-happy and conniving. Yet alongside this gallop of rampant egos runs a code of loyalty: and at its heart stands Doc Holliday, the novel's hypnotic focus who--despite his boozy, card-sharking mania that threatens to destroy not only himself but his battered whore/lover Kate--puts his life on the line time and again for the Earps. Filtering other Western legends--Bat Masterson, Johnny Ringo, Billy the Kid--into his violent vortex, Estleman closes by moving seamlessly from dramatization to nonfiction chronicle as he summarizes the later careers of his principals, up to their deaths. A gripping, brilliant amalgam of drama and history that demythologizes heroes without reducing their stature, and that packs emotional power without sentimentality, this is a revisionist Western classic.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Bantam