In 1881 the city of Tombstone, Arizona Territory, boasted two newspapers. There was The Nugget, edited by Harry Woods, which printed just about anything whether it was libelous or not, and then there was the Epitaph run by John Clum whose second job was being mayor of that fine city.
Tombstone's varied inhabitants included former soldiers of The War of the Rebellion who proved on a regular basis that the problem had not been settled at Appomattox. Cowboys who were nomadic thugs and whose ways of making money had nothing to do with ethics, men, and women whose pasts would not stand up to scrutiny and a few honest folks who were greatly outnumbered by the rest.
Some of the more notable inhabitants included the Earp brothers–Virgil, Wyatt and Morgan and their ladies–wives and companions, who, in their ways, were as strong and brave as their men. There was also an older brother, James, a saloon keeper, who kept far away from violence though. There was a tubercular, piano-playing, faro-dealing dentist who answered to “Doc.” There were Cowboys–the Clantons and McLaurys and the like–and there were politicians and silver mine millionaires whose self-interests involved playing these people off one against the other.
In 1881 the city of Tombstone experienced just as many months, weeks, days and minutes as any other year. It was 30 seconds in late October, however, that assured that city's place in American history and created heroes and villains who are still part of our folklore. The gunfight at the OK Corral and its tragic, sad aftermath have been told over and over, but Mary Doria Russell makes us want to read every single word of what we already know!
Epitaph is a sequel to her earlier book, Doc. For most people, daily life in Tombstone was difficult and unexciting, but Russell makes dust, dirt, torrential rains and daily worry into a novel you can't put down. She tells it like it was. There was bad in the good people and (occasionally) good in bad people.
To learn more about this and other books, visit the Boulder City Library at 701 Adams Boulevard, 293-1281, www.bouldercitylibrary.org