"I'm your huckleberry."
Years ago, I saw Val Kilmer at an airport. That was the only thing--"I'm your huckleberry."--I could think of to say to him. Of course, I thought of it 30 seconds too late and didn't actually say anything.
In the movie Tombstone, Val Kilmer portrays the legendary character of Doc Holliday. It's a performance that I've been unable to forget. What a fascinating character.
In her latest novel, Doc, Mary Doria Russell, strips away the myths and lore surrounding one of Wild West's infamous characters and tells the story of John Henry Holliday, a young, sickly dentist from Georgia, who goes west in search of a cure to the tuberculosis that has already killed his mother.
Tired of life in Texas, J.H. Holliday and his girl Kate, head to Dodge City, Kansas. It's the end of the line for the cattle drives from Texas. Dodge City, full of vice and money and shifty politics, is the perfect place for a card sharp. While in Dodge, Doc sets up his dentist practice and meets the Earp brothers--with whom his name will be permanently linked in the pages of history.
Russell, an anthropologist, may be trying to present a more accurate picture of Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp but the characters are only more rich and fully developed and believable in her version. Doc might not have been the gun slinging, cold-blooded, revenge-seeking man as he is generally portrayed (and even possibly became once they move on to Tombstone), but J.H. Holliday is still an intriguing anachronism. How does this highly educated, concert pianist, feeble gentleman fit in the rough and tawdry world that is Dodge City, Kansas? Using wit, skill at cards, unlikely friendships with the Earps and an undeserved reputation, Doc manages quite well.
I've had such a busy and fun week with multiple family get togethers and very late nights, but every chance I got, I slipped away to read this book. Russell is a gifted story teller. While some of the book, especially the beginning, reads more like a historical narrative, Russell does bring the characters to life. She also sets the stage for the inevitable action, by painting a detailed picture of Dodge and giving even the minor characters, such as the Chinese launderer, the Jesuit priest, the proper and beautiful belle of Dodge, and the various prostitutes personality and humanity. Seen through their eyes, Dodge City becomes more than just a Hollywood set of a dusty street of clapboard buildings.
Mary Doria Russell's novel Doc is a stand-out work of historical fiction and gave me a new perspective on this most fascinating character.
I received a free copy of this book from Goodreads.com in exchange for an honest review. No additonal compensation has been received.