by Gary Roberts
John Henry Holliday, aka Doc Holliday, was born in 1851 in Griffin, Georgia. Roberts begins the legend that is Doc Holliday by describing Doc as just a spoiled kid, pampered by his older sisters, during the civil war. However, Doc’s true colors showed relatively early in age, when it was rumored that he was the shooter behind a murder near a popular swimming hole. However, another side to his character is evidenced by his having graduated from one of the best dentistry schools in Pennsylvania, clearly showing Doc was not just cold blooded but also intelligent.
For some reason, which Roberts speculates was due to Doc’s death sentence of consumption (tuberculosis), Doc gave up a bright future as a respected dentist to go out west and gamble: Dallas, Dodge city, and finally Tombstone, Arizona, the location of the infamous OK Corral shootout.
Roberts impartially portrays the events leading up to the OK Corral shootout, and interestingly, how the shootout became mired in politics: Tombstone was run by gangs of rustlers (people that robbed, stole cattle) and a Sheriff Behan who supported them vs the Earp brothers, Doc, and the businesses who didn’t like being robbed. The Sheriff and the rustlers (as well as plenty of corrupt towns people) supported democrats, while the Earps, the Governor, and the effected businesses were Republican. Naturally, the Sheriff wanted to hand over Doc and Wyatt to the rustlers, to be killed, while the Governors of Arizona and Colorado did not want Doc or Wyatt prosecuted. Miraculously, what started off as a local skirmish between Doc/Wyatt vs the lawless rustlers, led to the highest reaches of government intervening (refusing to hand over Doc or Wyatt to Sheriff Behan) on Earp/Doc’s behalf.
Perhaps what makes Doc’s legend so intriguing is Doc’s conflicting nature or his redeeming characteristics juxtaposed with his cold-bloodedness. Doc interestingly was a true friend to Wyatt Earp, and did not hesitate to support him. At the same time, Wyatt would not hesitate to kill one over a debt or a slight of honor. As Roberts notes, although most of the trouble was of Doc’s own doing, he was oftentimes in the right.