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por Mary Doria Russell

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Séries: Doc Holliday (1)

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1,40217512,999 (4.12)685
After the burned body of a mixed-blood boy, Johnnie Sanders, is discovered in 1878 Dodge City, Kansas, part-time policeman Wyatt Earp enlists the help of his professional-gambler friend Doc Holliday.
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I am NOT the sort of person who reads or watches Westerns. I vaguely knew Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, The OK Corral and "Get out of Dodge" as concepts, but I could probably only give you a 50-50 bet on whether they were fictional or not, and I certainly had no clue that they were connected. That the OK Corral was a shootout completely exhausts my a priori knowledge of all things Western.

But, Mary Doria Russell is one of those authors for me. If I could only read one book for the rest of my life, it would probably be [b:The Sparrow|334176|The Sparrow|Mary Doria Russell|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1333578682s/334176.jpg|3349153], so I wasn't going to let something like a genre get in my way. That was a good move on my part. Doc is filled with rich, vivid characters. None of them are better than they ought to be, but none of them are caricatured lawless villains either. Doc is my favorite - quiet, quick to take insult, but quicker still to lend a helping hand, proud and frail, but simple, virtuous Wyatt and temperamental, brilliant, very rarely tender Kate are also beautifully depicted. To say nothing of a host of supporting characters.

I am, by nature, partial to cleft lip/palate stories, and Russell's description of Holliday's cleft repair and his diction difficulties following is precision embodied. It goes without saying, given that Russell taught anatomy at my own alma mater, that her treatment of historical dentistry leaves nothing to be desired. This is, after all, a Russell novel, so it is meticulous in detail, flawlessly researched, accurate to a T.

Of course, there are original characters, who, of course, include a Jesuit and multi-ethnic characters who challenge our understanding of race and racial relations. These characters flirt with being a little too perfect, especially in light of their historic setting, but overall add to the flavor (shockingly, there is no unlikely Jew of even more unlikely ethnic extraction. I kept waiting for it.)

My only criticism is that, for people like me who come naive to Westerns, the book almost completely omits the OK Corral and the events directly leading up to it. Since it represents everything I will ever know about the genre, probably for the rest of my life, I would have liked Russell's take on that central piece of the Doc Holliday mythos. Nonetheless, it is by far the best book I have read that heavily features Nevadan prostitutes this month (*cough* [b:The Lonely Polygamist|6944566|The Lonely Polygamist|Brady Udall|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1291169474s/6944566.jpg|7178069] *cough*_ ( )
  settingshadow | Aug 19, 2023 |
Obviously, when everybody knows the story already, there is a lot of pressure on the author when writing something like this. I had some difficulty not imagining Val Kilmer speaking all of JHH's dialogue, and at times the story seemed to be more a detailed account of the course of tuberculosis than it needed to be. I'm sure the author was not attempting a hagiography, but the overall structure of the novel naturally requires that the protagonist and his friends be cast in a positive light - making it somewhat difficult to see the characters as real people. I was pleased to see reference to "Rokitansky's hemorrhage". I still don't know what that is, even after searching Rokitansky's manual of pathological anatomy (at chestofbooks.com), but I can guess. ( )
  markm2315 | Jul 1, 2023 |
The other book I read by this author, The Sparrow, left me with almost an identical assessment. Slow first half, excellent second half, 3.5ish rating. Rounding up for strong character development and dialogue.

The story is a historical fiction novel focused on the life story of Doc Holliday (of Tombstone fame) and Wyatt Earp. Holliday is a fascinating character. Plagued by tuberculosis, he moves West for the climate. He is very well educated and longs for worldly companionship which he ultimately finds in unusual places.

While I became invested in the characters and their trials, I wasnt terribly enamored with the plot which focuses on the death or a minor character. However while the plot barely simmers for the first two thirds of the book, it ultimately boils.

Russell can write very well, but she doesnt put as much of a premium on pacing and suspense. Patience is ultimately rewarded. ( )
  Anita_Pomerantz | Mar 23, 2023 |
Historical fiction about John Henry (Doc) Holliday, covering his early years in Griffin, Georgia, through 1878, when he lived in Dodge City, Kansas. It stops just shy of his move to Tombstone, Arizona, when he became famous as part of the shoot-out at the OK Corral (which is covered in another of her books, Epitaph). The book covers his relationship with such notable people as Wyatt, Morgan & James Earp, Bat Masterson, nobility-turned-prostitute Kate Harony (aka Big-Nosed Kate), and others living in Dodge City at the time. This is a character-driven novel, with a loosely structured plot (a low-key mystery involving a descendent of a Black Seminole). Even though there is not a significant amount of action, I thought there was enough, including activities surrounding saloons, brothels, cattle drivers, law enforcement, gambling and horsemanship. It depicts a “slice of life” of what it would have been like to live in Dodge City in the 1870s, showing the gradual transition from lawlessness to a more law-oriented environment. I was formerly aware of these notable people, but mostly through sensationalized westerns, containing many myths and not much fact. Given that this is fiction, it seemed ironic that I felt like I got a more in-depth picture of the true nature of these people, both admirable characteristics and flaws. It also shows how the myths developed and why they endured.

The author excels at character development. She is also adept at creating a feeling of what frontier life was like if the reader were to time-travel to the era, since Doc is an educated dentist having relocated from Georgia to Texas in hope that his tuberculosis could be cured, or at least abated, by the dry climate He actively seeks out intellectual stimulation, partly explaining the dysfunctional relationship that he developed with Kate. The author imbued the text with the feeling of what it would have been like for Doc to be isolated, frightened, and infirm, seeking out the things he loved such as music, books, and intellectual conversation, in an environment severely lacking in culture or education. It also includes the achievements in the areas of the arts and sciences, when the world was transitioning. It is filled with literary and musical anecdotes.

I was pleased to be able to better understand the life of Doc Holliday, as he had previously seemed a “fish out of water” in terms of the gun-slinging of the old west. We learn that he rarely raised a gun and that to do so would have been severely debilitating, considering his disease. Speaking of which, this book gives the reader a clear idea of how tuberculosis gradually diminished the life of the victim. I am very glad that this disease is no longer an active killer!

A bit of philosophy is included, such as how “ghost lives” (of what has happened to a person in the past) can continue to impact people (as they surely do even in present day) and how “forks in the road” or “the path not taken” can influence a person’s life in dramatic ways. It is obvious the author has thoroughly researched the period. She also clearly states what is fact vs. fiction. I enjoyed this reading experience and recommend it to readers of historical fiction, westerns, and those who wish to gain a better understanding of lives of famous people of the old west. Contains profanity, prostitution, and violence. ( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
Rather than label this a historical novel, I would venture to say that this is a novelized history book. We learn about the sociological and the societal pieces of this historical era in abundant detail. Russell has definitely done her research.

However, it’s all a bit much – the focus of the novel is lacking and we are showered with too much information. Do we need to know the details of how Doc rebuilds someone’s mouth? It wasn’t until about half way through the book, when the Fourth of July horse race occurs, that I felt myself drawn into the story. As we ride into town, we’re saddled with having to ride with a plethora of characters through a maze of small-town politics, card games and whoring. One or two games, fewer peripheral characters would have served the story adequately.

Don’t get me wrong: I liked the book just fine, but would have liked a bit more editing. It flies as a book one would read in a history class, but flails as a tight tale of the era. The second half of the book bears up considerably better than the first. And the gut-wrenching account of Doc's final years is heart breaking.

Wyatt: "All these girls have some story"
Doc: "Everyone of them has a story, and every story begins with a man who failed her." ( )
  dbsovereign | Oct 29, 2022 |
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Nome do autorPapelTipo de autorObra?Estado
Mary Doria Russellautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Bramhall, MarkNarradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado

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This book is fiction, but there is always a chance that such a work of fiction may throw some light
on what has been written as fact.
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For Art Nolan, who told me what Wyatt knew; for Eddie Nolan, who showed us what John Henry had to learn; for Alice McKey Holliday, who raised a fine young man; with thanks to Bob Price and Gretchen Batton.
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He began to die when he was twenty-one, but tuberculosis is slow and sly and subtle.
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Ignore it, deny it, or fight it, change was inevitable.
He was, he believed, no longer prone to the paralyzing bouts of homesickness that used to overwhelm him, when the yearning for all he had lost was so powerful that his only defense was to hold himself still until the sorrow washed through him and left him empty again.
The heat was building under the roof of the hotel, but the air was dry and not so hard on him as the murderous swelter of a Southern summer. He closed his eyes and listened to the strangely lulling concert that Dodge in daylight produced. The brassy bellow of cattle, the timpani of hooves. A cello section of bees buzzing in the hotel eaves. The steady percussion of hammers: carpenters shingling the roof of a little house going up on a brand-new street extending north from Front.
The sunset beyond shone vermilion through the dust.
If you knew what was what, you made damn sure there was money sewn into seams, or gems hidden in hems—
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After the burned body of a mixed-blood boy, Johnnie Sanders, is discovered in 1878 Dodge City, Kansas, part-time policeman Wyatt Earp enlists the help of his professional-gambler friend Doc Holliday.

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