You guys, I wrote this whole long post and then it vanished and that was days ago. So these are my fragmented, re-gathered thoughts on Doc.
Mary Doria Russell? I am your huckleberry.
Remember how The Sparrow gave me a case of the Delighted and Delightedly Eviscerated Flails? This is not that. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. This is another case of This Book Is Not Fingersmith, where every book that Sarah Waters writes will suffer comparisons for not being Fingersmith.
But Doc is still damned good.
Val Kilmer’s Doc Holliday is far and away the best thing about Tombstone (Doc Holliday being likewise the best thing about Val Kilmer), and Russell’s Holliday is Kilmer’s Holliday right down to the ground. REFINED and SARDONIC and WRY enough to curl your teeth.
And, like when I find something on the internet in more than one place and assume it must be true, this clearly means that I need to travel back to 1871 to pour the good doc a glass of bourbon and send his blood-stained handkerchiefs out to the Chinese laundry (would that be racist if it were not historically accurate?). What I mean is, I would tap that, galloping consumption and all (that’s not contagious, right?).
Ok so. Doc Holliday – the man, the myth, the dentist – is (in)famous for his deadly pistoliering and his participation in the shoot-out at the O K Corral, and for accompanying Wyatt Earp on his Ride of Earpy Vengeance, but this is not that anymore than it’s The Sparrow. This is John Holliday the infant who wasn’t supposed to live (cleft palate could do that to you). This is John Holliday the pianist. This is a southern gentleman in the savage west, all cool and drawling and polite and then flying off the handle when people refuse to take him at his damned word.
And this is the perfect blend of biography and historical fiction. Like, the bits that you need to know about to get from A to C are all, And then this happened and then this and over here also this, but then the bits you want to be PRESENT for are laid out in detail. And there’s a list of characters in the beginning with the completely fictionalized ones italicized that you sort of skim over at first because who are these people but after you finish you go back to see who wasn’t real people and it turns out VERY FEW OF THEM.
And sometimes things are in Latin, or French (both Doc and his Hungarian ladyfriend Kate are polyglottic) and they AREN’T ALWAYS TRANSLATED! I want to make out with that fact because it presumes a brain and basic understanding of context on my part.
I would never be all like, I love westerns, but I love Tombstone and Lonesome Dove and now Doc SUPER-HARD so I’mma have to amend that to: I am not opposed to westerns.
Eight and a half caterpillars.