Monday, March 2, 2015

Book REview -- Osprey Tombstone, --Wyatt Earp,the O.K. Corral, and the Vendetta Ride 1881-1992

Tombstone –Wyatt Earp, the O.K. Corral, and the Vendetta Ride 1881-82. Osprey Raid -41.
Written by Sean McLachlan, Illustrated by Mark Stacey and Johnny Shumate.

Scope – Narrow and well defined.
Completeness – Very.
Appeal – High, well presented.
Accuracy – open to debate

This 80 page, well-illustrated book covers the famed gunfight at the O.K. Coral. This occurred on October 26, 1881 in the town of Tombstone, Arizona.  In this much retold and often fictionalized incident of the old West, two factions, the Clantons and the Earps, faced off and settled their differences with gunplay. 

The story has been retold many times. And like most such true tales of the American West, in many different ways. (For an amusing approach to trying to make sense of the facts amidst myriad confusing reports, of an old Western gunfighter’s life, I recommend “Billy the Kid, the Endless  Ride,” by Michael Wallis (2007, ww Norton & Company, New York, New York).  Wallis, repeatedly, does a great job of surveying conflicting claims and weighing their pros and cons and validity in a manner that is both scholarly and amusing at the same time. Although this book acknowledges such problems, it does not, for reasons of space, go into them in as much space.) Therefore, while at times this book is forced to simply repeat two (or more) conflicting reports of the same incident, it still does do a good job of explaining the whos, the wheres, the whys, and the hows, of the legendary gunfight at the O.K. Coral.  

In the early 1880s, Tombstone, Arizona was a frontier town struggling with a political divide. On both sides of this divide were armed men with a proven history of violence.
The Earp faction represented the law in the town. Although most considered the enforcement and strictness of the law in this time and place had to be a bit “fuzzy” and flexible at times, nevertheless, these were the men who were assigned to keep order and maintain the peace. Today, the three brothers, Wyatt, Morgan, and Virgil Earp, along with their friend “Doc” Holliday, a dentist by trade, are almost household names and their exploits real and imagined have been the focus of countless movies.

The Clantons, the other side of the dispute, were a group of ranchers who represented the “Cowboys” faction.  (that is what they were commonly called at the time .)  The activities of the group included not just buying and selling cattle, but also rustling cattle and dealing in stolen cattle, particularly cattle stolen in Mexico to the south.

The town was divided between two political parties, the Republicans and the Democrats. In the post Civil War American west, the Republicans were seen as the party of the supporters of the North and the Democrats as the party of the supporters of the South. There were separate newspapers for the two factions as well. (My, oh my, how little things seem to have changed after 140 years.)
Problems involving misbehaving “cowboys” escalated, death threats were made, and the result was the most famous gunfight in American history.

This book covers it well, giving a good description of the time and place, the lives and histories of the people involved, the weapons used, the stakes they were fighting for, as well as the outside factions and forces that had to be kept in mind when the people involved made decisions. Although there was a fuzzy line between what was allowed and what was permitted, if either side had gone too far the result would have been outside intervention.      

In conclusion, this is a good introduction and survey to the famed Gunfight at the O.K. Corral as well as the events that took place before and after. It contains nice art, good photographs and nice art and is well worth reading.  

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