Before reading Doc by Mary Doria Russell, the only thing I knew about the famous Doc Holiday was that he looked remarkably like Val Kilmer and often suggested his peers might be Daisies. What a delight to read about this fascinating and complex gentleman. Russell tells Doc’s story from the very beginning; John Henry Holiday’s birth. His hold on life was tenuous from the start, as he was born with a hare-lip. Only because his uncle was a skilled surgeon, who performed the cutting-edge surgery, did Doc survive at all. His mother, to whom he was devoted, passed when he was fifteen of tuberculosis. When he started showing signs of the disease, he moved out west, where the dry air was supposedly better for him. He eventually makes his way to Dodge City, Kansas where the bulk of the story takes place, and we meet the historical figures we all know of, but don’t really know at all; the Earps, prohibitionists, cowhands, and Dodge City. If you’ve ever wondered what life was like in a frontier town, Russell paints a vivid picture, paying special attention to the challenges faced by women in the American West.
A must-read for fans of Dan O’Brien’s Valentine MacGillycuddy series or those who enjoy historical fiction of the American West.