The third book in Wilcox’s (Gone West, 2014, etc.) historical fiction series finds dentist Doc Holliday heading to Tombstone, Arizona, to meet up with Wyatt Earp and his brothers for gunfights and adventures.
By 1879, John Henry “Doc” Holliday had been all over the Old West. But it was in Tombstone that he met his destiny in a brief gunfight that would go down in American history as the Gunfight at the OK Corral. However, the reasons why he was in Tombstone and what happened after are the real meat and potatoes of this third and final book in Wilcox’s three-part Southern Son series chronicling Holliday’s life. The first book, Inheritance (2013), focused on Holliday’s Georgia boyhood and how he struggled with an emotionally distant father and his unrequited love for his cousin Mattie. Book 2, Gone West (2014), traced Holliday’s travels throughout the West and demonstrated how the young dentist became a gambler and friend of Wyatt Earp. By the time the third book begins, John Henry has matured into the legendary Doc Holliday, consumptive dentist and dead shot with a pistol. Holliday (as well as the Earps) came to Tombstone because of its rich silver mines, though he soon got caught up in the politics that led to the shootout. Wilcox wisely doesn’t make the OK Corral the climax of the story but merely another episode in Holliday’s eventful life, since much came after that, including his trial and the Vengeance Ride. Wilcox, who spent 18 years researching her subject, brings Holliday to life with astonishing clarity, a notable achievement given how he’s usually a shadowy supporting figure. Through his on-again, off-again relationship with Mattie-substitute Kate Elder, Wilcox is able to get inside Holliday’s head and show readers the mass of contradictions and emotional pain within this Southern gentleman–turned–gambler/gunfighter. Adding to the enjoyment is a smattering of authentic period language: cows aren’t watched, they’re “worried at,” and gun-toting men frequently refer to “being heeled.”
A must-read for fans of the Old West.