Reviews Forrest W Schultz

Most of us who have lived in Atlanta or its Southside for a while have probably heard about Doc Holliday living around here and of a special Holliday house in Fayetteville.  The official name of that house is the Holliday-Dorsey-Fife House Museum, and the author’s official relationship to it is its “founding director”.  And Doc Holliday’s story also is of interest for devotees of Gone With The Wind because Doc is a relative of Margaret Mitchell and of the women she used as models for Scarlett and Melanie.  And, finally, and obviously, cowboy movie fans will be interested because of that famous Gunfight at OK Corral. 

Any reader who is a fan of Doc Holliday should be warned that, being true to the historical facts, the author’s story includes, as she delicately puts it, “his very real human failings”, which are not easy to read about.  This book, which is the first volume in a trilogy, ends with an ignominious failure, from which he escapes by fleeing to Texas.  Volume I, therefore, fits the classic definition of a tragedy — a good beginning and a bad ending.  The failures of Doc are especially poignant by their sharp contrast with the good examples of living he had, especially his mother and his cousin Mattie.  And the dialogues he had with them and other family members and friends of the family are very memorable and delightful — Victorian speech and conduct at its finest! 

There is a lot more which could be said about this book, and different readers will find different parts of it of more interest than others.  For instance, as a former resident of Philadelphia for seventeen years (prior to moving to Georgia) I was especially interested in the account of the two years which Doc spent as a student at a dental school in Philadelphia, from which he received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree.  That is where the moniker “Doc” comes from.

This first volume covers Doc’s life as a boy and young man, which happens shortly before and during and immediately after the Civil War, and it ends in 1873 with his flight to Texas.  It is the latest of example of excellent writing of history and historical fiction, in this case, biography, where history reads like a good story because the author includes, instead of excludes, interesting things and does a good job of communicating to the reader what  happened, just as though he were there seeing it happen.  I highly recommend this book and I am looking forward to reading Volume II, Gone West.

Reviewed by:  Forrest W. Schultz