Mary Doria Russell's last two novels have been works of historical fiction, and Doc demonstrates that she's clearly found her groove in the genre. The premise of the book is at once both iconic and imaginative, treating the beginnings of friendship between Doc Holliday and the Earp clan several years before all the fuss at the O.K. Corral. These are not hardened lawmen, but struggling young men with simple dreams of financial stability and good health. Mark Bramhall does an impeccable job with the voice work, taking on these enormously well known characters and adding a sensitive depth of uncertainty. After all, at this moment in history, John Henry Holliday is just a dentist who plays a bit of poker, and Wyatt Earp is merely a part-time officer of the peace who is hoping to breed racehorses. They are thrown together out of concern for a mutual acquaintance, John Horse Sanders, a mixed-race man who died in a fire but who may have been murdered before the fire got started.
It's a straightforward Western mystery with a surprising amount of intricate narration. Mark Bramhall is a prize when it comes to character acting, so he handles the various Southern accents, from Georgia to Texas to Kansas, without even breaking a sweat. But everyone knows Doc Holliday died of consumption at a young age. Doc's dialogue is riddled with hacking, coughing, spluttering and spitting. Bramhall manages to insert all of these credibly, yet without disrupting the flow of the story or ruining Doc's many profound punch lines. It's particularly a treat to hear him voicing Doc's fiery gypsy whore, Kate. Switching between Western and Hungarian accents seems difficult enough, but Kate is also fluent in a number of other languages, and Bramhall delivers the French and Latin with an easy grace. Russell's slow and steady narrative is bound to delight, but as with all good Westerns, it's the drawling sound of the place that will make it truly enchanting. Megan Volpert
The year is 1878, peak of the Texas cattle trade. The place is Dodge City, Kansas, a saloon-filled cow town jammed with liquored-up adolescent cowboys and young Irish hookers. Violence is random and routine, but when the burned body of a mixed-blood boy named Johnnie Sanders is discovered, his death shocks a part-time policeman named Wyatt Earp. And it is a matter of strangely personal importance to Doc Holliday, the frail 26-year-old dentist who has just opened an office at No. 24, Dodge House.
Beautifully educated, born to the life of a Southern gentleman, Dr. John Henry Holliday is given an awful choice at the age of 22: die within months in Atlanta or leave everyone and everything he loves in the hope that the dry air and sunshine of the West will restore him to health. Young, scared, lonely, and sick, he arrives on the rawest edge of the Texas frontier just as an economic crash wrecks the dreams of a nation. Soon, with few alternatives open to him, Doc Holliday is gambling professionally; he is also living with Mária Katarina Harony, a high-strung Hungarian whore with dazzling turquoise eyes, who can quote Latin classics right back at him. Kate makes it her business to find Doc the high-stakes poker games that will support them both in high style. It is Kate who insists that the couple travel to Dodge City, because “That’s where the money is.”
And that is where the unlikely friendship of Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp really begins - before Wyatt Earp is the prototype of the square-jawed, fearless lawman; before Doc Holliday is the quintessential frontier gambler; before the gunfight at the O.K. Corral links their names forever in American frontier mythology - when neither man wanted fame or deserved notoriety.
©2011 Mary Doria Russell (P)2011 Random House Audio
"Fact and mythmaking converge as Russell creates a Dodge City filled with nuggets of surprising history, a city so alive readers can smell the sawdust and hear the tinkling of saloon pianos....Filled with action and humor yet philosophically rich and deeply moving - a magnificent read." (Kirkus)
Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
Western lore has made Doc Holliday an important but secondary figure to Wyatt Earp in the narrow context of a single 30-second gun battle. Readers looking for a shoot-‘em-up retelling of the OK Corral need to look elsewhere. The action takes place almost exclusively in Dodge City before any of the principles ever move to Tombstone for that nearly mythological encounter.
In the hands of author Russell, Doc is a tragic but dashing hero of his own story - generous, humorous, ironic and proud. This wonderful character study explores the substance behind the dime store novel legends, fleshing out the cardboard heroes into wonderfully flawed human beings of depth and dimension. By taking the time to explain the back stories of all the major players, historical and psychological context make sense of the complicated personalities of Doc, Kate and the Earps, clarifying their interconnected relationships. This is historic fiction at its best – atmospherically descriptive, transporting the reader into time and place with her characters.
Mark Bramhall is one of my favorite readers, which is how I came upon this book. In the most ambitious project I have heard from him, he successfully tackles multiple accents, (Southern, Texan, Gypsy, German, Irish) and languages (French, German and Latin) with astonishing ease. Most eloquently, he gives Doc his beautifully melodic Georgia drawl, punctuated by spasms of consumptive coughing and weary breathlessness, conveying both the burden of his disease and the bravery of the fight against it. This is a performance that any author would wish for to bring life to a well written story.
I listened every chance I got - the characters lived! the dialogue was clever and smart. And I DO hope the story is true, or almost true! Mary Doria Russell's thorough research was clearly evident, and she's a superb author
Also, Mark Bramhall was already my favorite narrator, but this reading moved him to a higher level in my opinion. I don't think I've ever heard him use so many voices and accents, and all were excellent, adding a great deal to the flavor of the story.
Let's face it, these authors aren't paying me, so there's no need to lie!!
Most of the reviews on here point out how deep and well fleshed-out the characters are in this book. They're right. The characters are AMAZING. If all you want is a period piece with interesting Western characters and nothing more, then this is your book. As for the story.... NOTHING HAPPENS! Well, things happen, but nothing that's all that entertaining. Some people get sick... some people play the piano well... some people drink and play cards.... and I fall asleep! Are you serious? How do you take two iconic characters like Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp, and manage to make them THIS BORING?? Somehow, it was possible, because Russell did it.
Narrator is very good.
Bottom line, if you like Old West stories about places like Dodge City, and you don't mind if the story truly goes nowhere, then this is for you. As a pure character piece, this book is wonderful. However, I need a great story in order to enjoy a period piece like this.
I am an Australian woman who enjoys reading many different styles of books, from history to sci fi and mystery to poetry.
Initially I thought that the narrator was a little slow and stilted but as the story moved into its own rhythm... my goodness! This was a tale that is beautifully and compassionately written and the narrator fits it perfectly. It really is a story for everyone. And I don't really like Westerns so it was a stretch for me to buy this. I am so glad I did.
Captivating and mind-opening historical fiction about the "wild west" as well as the character of Doc Halliday and the lives of his companions. Very well done.
This book was superbly written and performed perfectly. The combination made for such an entertaining listen that I was sad when it was over. I was transported by the combination and would recommend this book to anyone, including my husband who does not read fiction. This is historical fiction at it's best. Writing and performance that are both nuanced. One of the other things that was so good about this is that it focused on the characters, their development, and their relationships. There was action, but it was secondary to a book about people and the stories we don't know behind the story we do. But we can imagine the conversations, the feelings, the day-to-day life and Ms. Russell did this very, very well. It made for an excellent, entertaining read
Avid reader, loves suspense, classics, and any books that are well written no matter the genre.
This book was really fun to listen to. The narrator was truly fabulous and for the length of the novel I felt like I was transported to a different time and place. Loved it. Made me smile as well as feel sad. I LOVED listening to this narrator!
So Many Books, So Little Time
Mary Doria Russell has the uncanny ability to create characters that are so real and so human that you feel like you know them. I wasn't sure what to expect from this book but the kid in me could not resist a book about childhood heroes. I never expected the total treat that this book is -- not because of the story, but because of the way these characters rise above the expectation that they will revive childhood fascination and become people the reader could know.
I am a reader who wants characters I can love and that I can cheer for. Like many people I've seen lots of movies about the Earps and the gunfight at the OK Corral and all that stuff. Wisely, Russell let the things we all know be just a part of the background and she focused on the people, the humanity of the people, that those legends were. I loved every character in this book. I loved the whores - educated, passionate Kate and stoic, vulnerable Mattie and practical, loving Bessie. I loved the Earp brothers, Morgan and James and especially Wyatt. I loved Bat Masterson in all his dorkiness. I loved the old priest and thought the scene after the funeral where they get drunk and start telling stories was one of the funniest I have ever read.
But most of all I fell in love with Doc. Russell's John Henry Holliday is a brilliant, passionate, loving man -- a Southern gentleman to the nth-degree with a big heart and a failing body. Toward the end of the book, when, despite his advanced tuberculosis, Doc stands up for Wyatt, Morgan Earp says that he now knows why fighting the Confederate Army was so difficult if all the Southerners were as tough as Doc.
The final scene, when Doc plays The Emperor's Waltz while his friends marvel at his tenacity and then dance, had me in tears. This is one of my favorite books in a very long time.
Mark Bramhill's talent as a narrator lent itself well to this story. His mastery of the various accents an his ability to portray the various characters so skillfully made this a delightful listening experience.
This excellently written book portrays the early lives of John Holliday, the Earp brothers, and other western legendary figures in Dodge City in the 1870's. Mary D. Russell weaves the strands of their lives into a vivid tapestry. You come to know them so well, their plans, hopes, weaknesses, their hard past experiences, the early friendships and falling out. Dorris has accomplished wonderful character portrayal and plot based on solid research.
However, the narrator carries the reader's experience to a new level.
It's hard to believe that only one narrator tells this multi-character story. He turns this excellent book into compelling theater. Every character has a distinctive voice, speech pattern, pronunciation, even Polish Kate.
I was riveted during all the hours of the book. If only it could have lasted longer.
It is one I will definitely listen to again!
I enjoy listening to audiobooks while working in my shop or around the house -sort of mental multitasking.
This work of historical fiction gives great information on the lives of Doc Holiday and the Earp brothers while weaving a good yarn.
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