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Doc: A Novel | [Mary Doria Russell]

Doc: A Novel

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.
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Audible Editor Reviews

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

Publisher's Summary

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

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (510 )
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  •  
    Lee W. Warren 09-29-11 Member Since 2007
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    "A book that lingers"

    I was introduced to The Sparrow and Children of God this summer and loved the excitement of discovering a new author who writes of such spiritual substance, but a western? Surely that would be the test as to whether she would hold her own and my customer loyalty. One word upon completion: Intoxication!! Fabulous, fabulous narrator. I'm doing something I've never done, listening to it all over again. I'm also pulling out my Chopin piano books that have been stored for 40 years, ordering Tombstone from Netflix, and moving on to the next Russell book. Check out Russell's website for more fun.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Yates East Windsor, NJ, United States 09-05-11
    Yates East Windsor, NJ, United States 09-05-11 Member Since 2009
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    "What a twist on good ole Tombstone!"

    I love historical fiction. This one was an excellent story! I recommend it!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Clapper Waxhaw, NC, United States 09-03-11
    Clapper Waxhaw, NC, United States 09-03-11 Member Since 2006
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    "Doc is a winner."

    Although I was already familiar with the Doc Holiday story I was very impressed with this look at his life. The narrator was spot on and lent a great deal of credibility to the story. Loved it!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathy Fort Collins, CO, United States 08-23-11
    Kathy Fort Collins, CO, United States 08-23-11 Member Since 2009
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    "Love the book!"

    I did not think I would like "Doc" but it has been a pleasant surprise. Doc is the kind of book you know will make a great movie and you know the actor that should play "Doc" would be Jude Law I do so hope they make a movie out of this book.
    .I also Love the narrator of this book and will see what other books be has done.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alisha Silver Spring, MD, United States 08-08-11
    Alisha Silver Spring, MD, United States 08-08-11 Member Since 2006

    CF0M0M

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    "Excellent story, amazing narrator. Just LONG"

    Its a great story and I enjoyed the depth but it was slow and long. Too long.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas WAUWATOSA, WI, United States 08-07-11
    Thomas WAUWATOSA, WI, United States 08-07-11 Member Since 2004
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    "Highly Entertaining! Story & reader combo works!"

    Having been a fan of "The Sparrow" all I needed to know was that Mary Doria Russell wrote in a different genre and I was ready with a credit. The writer's style and voice gave the prose depth, and the dialogue brought the characters to life, enhanced by great voice interpretations by the reader for the various characters. I'm also very interested to look for more about the Earp's and Doc Holliday. The reader was new to me and his voice enhanced the full audio experience, for me he's up there with Scott Brick, Stefan Rudnicki and Will Patton. I'm about to go looking for others Mark Bramhall has narrated. It's fun to follow a reader's work as well as an author's, as the result is often great new books that may never have been discovered otherwise.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeff Ferndale, WA, United States 09-25-11
    Jeff Ferndale, WA, United States 09-25-11
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    "If you need something to help you fall asleep"

    This is a real snoozer, if you're looking for any kind of action this is not the book.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 10-19-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Fell asleep."

    I couldn't even get through the first chapter. I fell asleep. Then I tried some more and same results this book is a list of characters in the first chapter and then the voice just droned on and on. Then a story of his childhood. I just didn't think I would ever get to the real story. I don't think a biography is my cup of tea.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael kansas city, MO, United States 10-29-12
    Michael kansas city, MO, United States 10-29-12 Member Since 2007

    Say something about yourself!

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    "great look at Doc"

    really good look at Doc.. loved the way she captured his brilliance with his flaws..

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Connor 01-29-12
    Connor 01-29-12 Member Since 2011

    Enjoy the adventure

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    "Don’t Be Afraid To Live"

    “Doc”, by Mary Doria Russell. is a novel based on Western legends living in Dodge City, Kansas during the late 1870’s. The novel primarily centers on James Henry (Doc) Holliday, but includes Wyatt and Morgan Earp and Kate Harony (Doc’s girlfriend, who was also a successful prostitute).

    I enjoyed the book. In part, because I appreciate witty dialogue and in part, because this is a story of a person’s struggle to enjoy life despite having a terminal illness. Sometimes I need a reminder that my fears might rob me of my quality of life.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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