AND DIE IN THE WEST: The Story of the O.K. Corral Gunfight by Paula Mitchell Marks

AND DIE IN THE WEST: The Story of the O.K. Corral Gunfight

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Dozens of books and films and even songs later, a fog of myth swirls around the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Here, western scholar Marks (St. Edward's Univ. in Austin) offers a reasoned and deeply researched popular study of the origins, events, and aftermath of that bloody shootout that made household names of Tombstone, Wyatt Earp, and Doc Holliday. Not for Marks are the Olympian heroics of John Ford's film My Darling Clementine (with Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp) or the bitter noirisms of Loren D. Estleman's novel Bloody Season. Rather, she aims for historical realism, with a strong nod to socioeconomic factors: ""The story. . .is one of a confused and complex scramble for money and power."" Within that scramble, Marks finds a watershed struggle--often fought with blurred lines--between country and city, cowboy and town businessman, rustler and lawman (usually a ""shootist,"" like Wyatt, ""a perfect example of the western peripheral man, treading the thin line between law and lawlessness, respectability and notoriety""). In prose that serviceably mortars myriad bits of bright detail, Marks re-creates Tombstone--its dusty streets, violent bars, whores--from the ground up, erecting a vivid backdrop for the arrival in the 1870's of the ambitious Earp brothers and viciously alcoholic Holliday and for their inexorable march to showdown With the ranching--and probably rustling--Clantons and McLaurys (although the actual shootout may have been ""just an accident,"" Marks believes, caused by the Earps' misreading a McLaury move). In lengthy conclusion, Marks ably runs down the subsequent murder inquest, the later careers of the principals (Wyatt moved to L.A., where he lived until 1929), and the growth of the legend. The real McCoy. Marks even lets us know that the gunfight occurred not at the O.K. Corral but nearby, and is properly ""the gunfight in the vacant lot between Fly's and Harwood's""--though no less dramatic for that. An admirable and painstaking reconstruction, then, and a thoughtful treat for serious western fans.

Pub Date: July 21st, 1989
ISBN: 0806128887
Publisher: Morrow