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Publisher's Summary

Mary Doria Russell, the best-selling, award-winning author of The Sparrow, returns with Epitaph. An American Iliad, this richly detailed and meticulously researched historical novel continues the story she began in Doc, following Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday to Tombstone, Arizona, and to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

A deeply divided nation. Vicious politics. A shamelessly partisan media. A president loathed by half the populace. Smuggling and gang warfare along the Mexican border. Armed citizens willing to stand their ground and take the law into their own hands....

That was America in 1881.

All those forces came to bear on the afternoon of October 26, when Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers faced off against the Clantons and the McLaurys in Tombstone, Arizona. It should have been a simple misdemeanor arrest. Thirty seconds and thirty bullets later, three officers were wounded, and three citizens lay dead in the dirt.

Wyatt Earp was the last man standing, the only one unscathed. The lies began before the smoke cleared, but the gunfight at the O.K. Corral would soon become central to American beliefs about the Old West.

Epitaph tells Wyatt's real story, unearthing the Homeric tragedy buried under 130 years of mythology, misrepresentation, and sheer indifference to fact. Epic and intimate, this novel gives voice to the real men and women whose lives were changed forever by those fatal thirty seconds in Tombstone. At its heart is the woman behind the myth: Josephine Sarah Marcus, who loved Wyatt Earp for forty-nine years and who carefully chipped away at the truth until she had crafted the heroic legend that would become the epitaph her husband deserved.

©2015 Mary Doria Russell (P)2015 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic Reviews

"Hillary Huber provides a stalwart, gutsy portrayal of Kate Haroney, the brothel madam whose tempestuous relationship with Doc Holliday was scandalous even in the Wild West. Huber gleefully portrays the cunning Josephine Marcus, a scrappy former prostitute who became Earp's common-law wife. Almost half a century after the gunfight, Huber adds tenderness and a touch of frenzy as Josephine persists in her version of the epic shoot-out." ( AudioFile)

What listeners say about Epitaph

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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SO GOOD!

Would you listen to Epitaph again? Why?

Most definitely. I listened to "Doc" first and was worried that "Epitaph" wouldn't be as good. Boy was I wrong! I actually preferred the latter and found myself in a state of disbelief when it ended.

What other book might you compare Epitaph to and why?

Lonesome Dove Series - Larry McMurtry
The Son by Philipp Meyer

Have you listened to any of Hillary Huber’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No, this was my first.

If you could rename Epitaph, what would you call it?

It wouldn't rename it. Epitaph is perfect.

Any additional comments?

You will not be disappointed!

5 people found this helpful

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Epitaph is the second captivating installment in Russell's western series

Epitaph (named both for the Arizona newspaper and the poetic relation to the content) is Mary Doria Russell's second venture into the Wild West after her spellbinding "Doc". Epitaph takes us into the world surrounding the events and characters of the historical gunfight at the O.K corral.

I've always loved books that tie character speculation based during historical events. In "doc" she gave us a new and captivating take on the south's own terminally ill gambling gunfighter Dr John Henry Holliday DDS, which carries on in Epitaph with Wyatt Earp and the Earp brothers. I can't recommend this book highly enough to fans of the historical period. Epitaph is a book worth it's weight and the audiobook is performed as well as an old time radio drama.... Can't recommend it highly enough

3 people found this helpful

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Entertaining and (largely) Factual History

Would you consider the audio edition of Epitaph to be better than the print version?

No, I would not. Hillary Huber is a very competent narrator and does a superb job in Taylor Stevens' novels on Vanessa Munroe (all of which I have listened to and enjoyed thoroughly); however her voice simply does not work in Epitah. I realize this is a minority opinion based upon the other Audible reviews, but when she speaks as Wyatt Earp, Earp's brothers, and most of the other male characters (excluding Doc Holliday where she does an excellent job with his accent), it sounds more like adolescent youths rather than tough cowboys.

What other book might you compare Epitaph to and why?

I have not read very many historical novels of the Old West, so I struggle to come up with any kind of comparison.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

As I indicated above, in most, but not all cases, the voice simply does not match the characters she attempts to represent. On the positive side, she does exceptionally well with the female characters and with Doc Holliday. She also enunciates well and does not commit any flagrant errors in pronunciation.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

What moved me the most throughout this book was the character of Wyatt Earp and the accuracy of most of the historical narrative.

Any additional comments?

I strongly recommend that people who are interested in this book read it in print vs audio.

3 people found this helpful

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A wonderful story, well-told

A 581-page (19-hour) page-turner. You know the OK Corral story, but not at this depth. Beautifully written, with characters you latch onto. The narration is very good, but with certain characters the narrator’s voice fails her, and Morgan Earp and Ike Clanton, for example, sound like children, though Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, and most others, are spot on.

2 people found this helpful

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If you’re looking for an old TV western, this is not your book.

However, if you want interesting and entertaining background about the familiar Tombstone figures, this is a good listen. It is a character-driven account with Josey Marcus in the starring role. Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and Ike Clanton are also well-rounded characters. Ms.Russell provides the political and social context showing that the famous shoot-out and its aftermath were inevitable, given the situation in Tombstone and Cochise County. It also shows that polarization between Democrats and Republicans and “fake news” are not modern phenomena!! The book appears be factual and well-researched, with lots of details that are missing from the movie Tombstone. Full disclosure, Tombstone is my all time favorite movie and the old Wyatt Earp TV series was also a favorite, so I was predisposed to like this book. The author did not disappoint. While Ms. Huber did a good job as narrator, I was disappointed that Mark Bramhall, narrator of Doc, was not chosen for this book. All in all, I liked Doc better, but this book is well worth a credit.

1 person found this helpful

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Poor narration almost ruined this book for me

I chose this book after thoroughly enjoying Doc, by the same author. Unfortunately the narrator made listening to this one a tedious experience. With inflection divorced from the meaning of the text and renditions of grown men in the voice of whiny teens, her performance was distracting. I should have bought the book.

1 person found this helpful

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Russell Never Disappoints!

Epitaph was a very good story. Not as brilliantly told as was Doc (my #1 all-time favorite narrated story!!), but certainly an enjoyable journey back in time.

1 person found this helpful

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A new must read Western - Russell at her best

Riveting. Especially with all the shootings and gun debates we still have, regardless of which side of the fence you sit. Not preachy - just a deeply human story. I've seen a number of movies on Tombstone, Holiday and the Earps, but none go this deep. This is probably my favorite of this author's books since her first, which is saying a great deal.

1 person found this helpful

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Great book and outstanding narrator!

I'm a big fan of old west stories and back this one delivered. The narrator was very skilled in her characterizations. Best I've read for a while.

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Top notch historical fiction

Why should I read a book anymore when I can for approximately $15 get a wonderful actor to read the book for me and really bring it to life? Since I began with audio books I am constantly amazed at the talent of the readers. Epitaph is no exception. This is a beautiful written, wonderfully read (by Hillary Huber) book, the sequel to Doc. Doc was the story of the infamous Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers during their days in Dodge City. Epitaph picks up the tale as Doc and the Earps reassemble in Tombstone, Arizona which leads up to one of, if not the most famous gun fight in history, which took place near, but not in, the OK Corral. The gunfight which made Wyatt Earp one of the most famous figures in US history lasted no more than 30 seconds. In the aftermath, the “cowboys” (rustlers) took vengeance on the Earps by attempting to assassinate Virgil Earp, wounding him severely, and then succeeding in killing Morgan Earp. Wyatt then embarked on his own mission of vengeance which led to the brutal death of several cowboys. Mary Doria Russell is a really brilliant writer who brings all the events and the characters on both sides to life so successfully that her version of what happened, whether exactly true or not, will result in being the default version for the reader. It was all very complicated politically. The cowboys were Confederates and Democrats. The Earps were Yankees and Republicans. The sheriff was a Democrat who was playing Wyatt for a fool. The sheriff’s lady fell for Wyatt and left the sheriff which added another layer of conflict. The town government of Tombstone was Republican as was the Marshall’s service where Wyatt was a deputy US Marshall. The outlier was Doc Holliday, a Georgian and Democrat by birth. But, Doc had become so connected to the Earps and their women that he was one of the family, particularly close to Morgan Earp who Wyatt had protected in childhood from a brutal father. The cowboys are every bit as interesting as Doc and the Earps and Ms Russell gives them fair treatment. In the actual gunfight Doc and the Earps didn’t even go up against the toughest of the cowboys. In fact, two of the men they killed were farmers, one of whom was in love with Morgan Earp’s wife Lou. Oh, it was so complicated. So while the first book was essentially Doc Holliday’s story, Epitaph is Wyatt Earp’s.
One might expect the story to end with the gunfight and the various acts of retribution. Thankfully, Ms Russell takes us another seventy or eighty years following the life of Wyatt and Sadie to their end with a final and wonderfully written chapter that ends with the premier of the Hugh O’Brian TV show, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp. You can watch several episodes on Youtube. It’s the sanitized version and skirts the reality of the Earp Brothers lives. James Earp and his prostitute wife ran a bar and brothel. Wyatt lived with a low life whore for many years before he took up with Sadie, a young Jewish woman from San Francisco. In between her relationship with the Sheriff and Wyatt she also worked as a prostitute in Tombstone. Sadie was a strong personality and is a great literary character. One can only hope she was as interesting and compelling in real life. I expect she was. She and Wyatt lived together for nearly 50 years traveling and working throughout the west sometimes successfully as when Wyatt made big money in real estate during a boom in San Diego. So, between the two books we follow Wyatt from his early years in Dodge to his death at near 80 years of age. It makes fascinating and entertaining reading. This writer is so good that I’m going to dive right into another one of her stories. Will report on that soon.