It’s those lead-slinging Earps—revisited and revitalized—strapping it on again in Parker’s first western.
Somewhat revamped, too, inasmuch as Wyatt and Virge, facing the Clantons at the world’s most famous corral, talk a lot like Spenser and Hawk (Potshot, p. 209, etc.). But how bad is that, pardner? The time is 1879, and the Brothers Earp—Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan—find themselves cash poor and in need of greener pastures. So, womenfolk in tow, they abandon Dodge for Tombstone (Arizona), where they have reason to believe the action is. They’re right, but it comes with complications, most of them embodied in the lissome form of showgirl Josie Marcus. As any Earp scholar can tell you, she’s Wyatt’s “dark lady.” Having once caught her act in that cowboy favorite “Pinafore on Wheels,” he’s completely smitten, hopelessly aware that wherever she goes, he goes. (“We have to be together,” he tells her.) At the moment, however, she belongs to silky-smooth, double-dealing Sheriff Johnny Behan—though not for long. And thereby hangs most of Parker’s tale. Because in this version, Behan bereft becomes Iago-like in his reptilian conniving. It’s Behan who fills Ike Clanton’s microbrain full of fantasies, among them the delusion that the Clantons can match up with the Earps. It’s Behan who manipulates Tombstone’s cowboys into believing the Earps are black-hearted carpetbaggers, greedy and ambitious at their expense. Behan wants Josie back no matter the cost. Wyatt intends to keep her no matter the cost. At the fateful OK, then, when the guns play their rhapsody and men fall, perhaps only Behan and Wyatt truly grasp the iron logic of cause and effect.
Goes on a bit after that climactic showdown, which is probably a mistake. But for the most part the action bristles, the talk is excellent, and the characters hold you: a much better than OK ride.