Editor reviews

Mary Doria Russell's last two novels have been works of historical fiction, and Doc demonstrates that she's clearly found her groove in the genre. The premise of the book is at once both iconic and imaginative, treating the beginnings of friendship between Doc Holliday and the Earp clan several years before all the fuss at the O.K. Corral. These are not hardened lawmen, but struggling young men with simple dreams of financial stability and good health. Mark Bramhall does an impeccable job with the voice work, taking on these enormously well known characters and adding a sensitive depth of uncertainty. After all, at this moment in history, John Henry Holliday is just a dentist who plays a bit of poker, and Wyatt Earp is merely a part-time officer of the peace who is hoping to breed racehorses. They are thrown together out of concern for a mutual acquaintance, John Horse Sanders, a mixed-race man who died in a fire but who may have been murdered before the fire got started.
It's a straightforward Western mystery with a surprising amount of intricate narration. Mark Bramhall is a prize when it comes to character acting, so he handles the various Southern accents, from Georgia to Texas to Kansas, without even breaking a sweat. But everyone knows Doc Holliday died of consumption at a young age. Doc's dialogue is riddled with hacking, coughing, spluttering and spitting. Bramhall manages to insert all of these credibly, yet without disrupting the flow of the story or ruining Doc's many profound punch lines. It's particularly a treat to hear him voicing Doc's fiery gypsy whore, Kate. Switching between Western and Hungarian accents seems difficult enough, but Kate is also fluent in a number of other languages, and Bramhall delivers the French and Latin with an easy grace. Russell's slow and steady narrative is bound to delight, but as with all good Westerns, it's the drawling sound of the place that will make it truly enchanting. —Megan Volpert
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Summary

The year is 1878, peak of the Texas cattle trade. The place is Dodge City, Kansas, a saloon-filled cow town jammed with liquored-up adolescent cowboys and young Irish hookers. Violence is random and routine, but when the burned body of a mixed-blood boy named Johnnie Sanders is discovered, his death shocks a part-time policeman named Wyatt Earp. And it is a matter of strangely personal importance to Doc Holliday, the frail 26-year-old dentist who has just opened an office at No. 24, Dodge House.
Beautifully educated, born to the life of a Southern gentleman, Dr. John Henry Holliday is given an awful choice at the age of 22: die within months in Atlanta or leave everyone and everything he loves in the hope that the dry air and sunshine of the West will restore him to health. Young, scared, lonely, and sick, he arrives on the rawest edge of the Texas frontier just as an economic crash wrecks the dreams of a nation. Soon, with few alternatives open to him, Doc Holliday is gambling professionally; he is also living with Mária Katarina Harony, a high-strung Hungarian whore with dazzling turquoise eyes, who can quote Latin classics right back at him. Kate makes it her business to find Doc the high-stakes poker games that will support them both in high style. It is Kate who insists that the couple travel to Dodge City, because “That’s where the money is.”
And that is where the unlikely friendship of Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp really begins - before Wyatt Earp is the prototype of the square-jawed, fearless lawman; before Doc Holliday is the quintessential frontier gambler; before the gunfight at the O.K. Corral links their names forever in American frontier mythology - when neither man wanted fame or deserved notoriety.
©2011 Mary Doria Russell (P)2011 Random House Audio
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Critic reviews

"Fact and mythmaking converge as Russell creates a Dodge City filled with nuggets of surprising history, a city so alive readers can smell the sawdust and hear the tinkling of saloon pianos....Filled with action and humor yet philosophically rich and deeply moving - a magnificent read." ( Kirkus)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By wordparty on 02-07-15

Terrific writing; brilliant reading...

This fine book is not a genre "western" - it is rather historical fiction of an exciting kind as it takes two of the mythic figures of the west: Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp and weaves a story of their lives in Dodge City - before the famous Tombstone years.
The book is full of incident and themes, dealing with pride, the brutal lives of many women in the cattle towns, revenge, loyalty to friends and the ravages of disease also - in this case Doc's rampant and movingly described tuberculosis. But there is plenty of humour and satire and wit in the story too, especially in the ironic way Doc speaks and acts - as he deals cards at Faro tables, interacts with his fearsome paramour Big Nose Kate, practices sophisticated dentistry on Wyatt Earp's front teeth and avenges a great wrong.
The only other western-set novel I know that has a similar depth is Ron Hansen's "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford", and that book has a pace and momentum which "Doc" occasionally lacks. Hansen's novel would make a great audiobook too.
But "Doc" is a really fine "listen" - quite brilliantly read by Mark Bramhall, whose range of voices and accents is superb and who narrates at just the right speed - at least for me. So for an authentic look behind the myths, and a compassionate examination of human nature under harsh dog-eat-dog conditions, this carefully researched and powerful novel by Mary Doria Russell - an author new to me - is highly recommended.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Dennis on 02-06-11

Great writing and narration

We are listening to "Doc" and the combination of great writing and a gifted narrator equals an amazing experience. This book is an example of how a well written book can be elevated to heights that cannot be reached by just reading the written word. Congratulations to the author for having such elite writing skills and to the narrator and his perfect voice. Thank you.

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20 of 20 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Robert on 26-05-11

WONDERFUL!

I loved this book! I'm a big fan of "LONESOME DOVE" and I enjoyed this one just as much. This book is very different, but still, a western. A GOOD western is a rare thing! This is a good one.

The narrator is so good I have been searching for other books he's done. He is a new find too!

5 stars for the book and the narrator.

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14 of 14 people found this review helpful

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