Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Doc: A Novel
Doc: A Novel by Mary Doria Russell, Random House, May 2011

... Doc is a unique character brought to life with all of his charms intact, you can't help but like him

In Doc, Mary Doria Russell has taken us to the Wild West, Dodge City 1878 to be specific. Dodge City functions for the express purpose of separating Texas cattle drivers from the money they bring to town using card games, alcohol and prostitutes. Into this wild place comes John Henry Holliday (Doc). He is a young man from Georgia doomed to an early death by the tuberculosis in his lungs. He lives life for all he is worth. A trained dentist he primarily earns his living playing poker. Along with his girlfriend, Kate a sometime aristocrat and now prostitute he settles into Dodge City's colorful lifestyle. Local characters include the Earp brothers, Wyatt, Morgan, James and Virgil, and the county sheriff Bat Masterson. Wyatt is employed as the local law enforcement in Dodge. There is the mysterious death of Johnnie Sanders, a mixed race young man who was friend to Doc and Wyatt that provides the backdrop of this story.

Dodge City a wild place and Russell brings it vividly to life. Her characters are real and we come to know the people not the legends that Hollywood has given us. Even the minor characters China Joe, Bat Masterson, Eddie Foy (yes that Eddie Foy), a Jesuit priest, and the local merchants are richly drawn and memorable. This really though is the story of Doc and he is a unique character brought to life with all of his charms intact, you can't help but like him. The murder mystery is really a minor part of this wonderful character driven novel. In the notes Russell outlines the parts of her story that are based on fact and surprisingly quite a bit of it is. While this novel is not in the same class as Russell's psychological sci fi novel The Sparrow it is a good read.

I read a copy of this book provided by the Amazon Vine program

1 comment:

Zibilee said...

The only Western that I have ever read has been Lonesome Dove, which I loved. It sounds like this book has some serious potential though, so I will have to keep my eyes open for it. Thanks for the great review!