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on 11 April 2005
Casey Tefertiller's biography of Wyatt Earp is a very interesting book written in a somewhat scholarly manner. Tefertiller makes a serious effort to give a full account of Earp's life with a special emphasis on his exploits in Dodge and Tombstone. The picture of Earp that emerges is that of a complex man who is cool in a crisis and has the ability to profit from his mistakes. Earp is portrayed as being dependable and courageous - a cut above the ordinary lawman of the Old West. He is also an oportunist who never quite manages to strike it rich.
Earp's long career included stints as lawman, boxing referee,gambler, saloon manager, Indian fighter, miner, capitalist and horseman.He died in 1929 at age eighty in Los Angeles.
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on 3 August 2017
Good book.
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on 24 October 2014
It's gone to the charity shop! My husband started to read it but felt it was rather badly written.
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on 29 April 1998
Earp is an enigma in American history. In fact, he was not a significant figure in our history at all. However, he has become a towering figure in American popular culture. A very private and soft-spoken man, Earp considered himself a businessman who, upon occasion, fulfilled the duties of a policeman. Tefertiller, the first trained journalist to research Earp's past since Stuart Lake did in the 1920s, captures the Earp enigma and complexity. Tefertiller takes Earp from the frontier towns where Earp was largely in control of his environment to his declining days in Los Angeles where he could control neither journalists nor his wife. This is a real biography based on facts, rising above a field that has been dominated by buffs, romantics and fiction writers disguised as historians. The New York Times called Tefertiller's book one of the significant books of 1997. There are many reasons why. Roger S. Peterson, Rocklin, California.
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on 18 February 2009
A few years ago we called in Tombstone while touring in the South West. Walked about a bit, had lunch, avoided the `re-enactments', and never got round to visiting the Okay Corral. The sheer tackiness of the place had a certain charm, like Brighton Pier - or Santa Monica Pier, which Earp surely ambled down sometime. And that was about it until I recently happened to watch (most of) the Kevin Costner movie on TV one night, which left me wondering what truth there was behind all the stories.

So I went into Amazon, found the Tefertiller book, which sounded okay, and ordered a copy. I found it absolutely fascinating, and very much better than the reheated Western which I was expecting. The writing and editing might be neater at times, but this is a remarkable story very well researched and well told. It's a messy story, because of the complicated jurisdictions, murky goings-on, and dubious sources - occasional court records, random surviving copies of highly partisan local newspapers, and the long delayed reminiscences of decidedly partial participants and observers - but Tefertiller makes a very brave effort of sorting it all out, and is careful in identifying where information comes from. The footnote discussing whether there were actually two different outlaws called `Curly Bill' rather than one sums up the difficulties and the author's attempts to get at the facts. And talking of outlaw's nicknames the Dodge City War (where `Dynamite Sam', `Dirty Sock Jack' and other desperados were mentioned but probably didn't actually exist) is a wonderful example of history repeating itself as farce - and a small example of how much more there was to Earp's life than the bit that gets in the movies.

What emerges from this book is a complex but still extremely interesting and quite moving story, and Earp's life story actually emerges as something more interesting than any of the movies so far have even attempted to convey. There is a better movie still to be made on the `Arizona War' alone, but what this book cries out for is a movie which takes in Tombstone but also takes in the rest of his life, the San Francisco days, the Alaska days, the Hollywood times, and the sad old age - Earp died poor, at a time when the movies were already making legends about the times he had lived in, and making fortunes for actors just playing at being men like him.

Amazon also tells us that Earp's name lived on in another context - apparently the Australian Navy explored the Antarctic in the 1940's in an old ship called the `HMAS Wyatt Earp' - how weird is that?
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on 8 January 2009
This is an outstanding book on so many different levels. So good that I bought it after I read a library copy!
All those old cowboy films they used to show on the TV--- this is what it was all about. A very short period of time in the 'Wild West'. It makes a really exciting read if you just want to read a good story. But there is far more to it.
Earp was, and remains, a very controversial figure. Was he a good guy standing up to the criminals on his own, or was he a thuggish bent cop? If there was a lot of crime in Tombstone why didn't the citizens stand up against it and why were there so many corrupt local businessmen ready to make money from the bad guys. Were they bad guys, or was Earp the problem? Why didn't the Government act? Did Earp become a lawless rampaging vengeful murderer, or was he doing something that needed to be done but the authorities would not act. Why was Tombstone so divided in opinion? There are a lot of questions in this book that relate to criminality today. He was the Dirty Harry of his day!
Even more interesting to think that my grandfather might have read about the shootout at the OK Corral in the newspaper when he was a kid! This is real history. Fascinating photos, and information on the enigmatic Doc Holliday.
Generally I don't like the American way of telling history, but this is a really well written book. Do I convey enthusiasm?!
Two films on Earp were made based on this book, as usual Hollywood messed with the story. Earp was present in Hollywood when some of the early Westerns were made. John Wayne met him and based his image on Earp.
Worth more than 5 stars!
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on 10 January 2007
I was pleasantly surprised by this book.This is an amazing story,and one that has fascinated me for many years.And reading this has strenghthened my interest even more.A jaw dropping account,of how the Earps struggled against all the odds,to rid Tombstone of the law-breaking Cowboys.

You're actually transported,back to spare land by the side of Fly's Boarding House,when the shots rang out.And when the smoke clears,two of the Earps are injured,and three Cowboys lie dead.A fantastic insight into the lives of the brothers,their friends and enemies.

Reading this book,was a real pleasure.
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on 28 May 1998
Casey Tefertiller has written a fine book of history, in a field where, for so long, lore has dominated the scene. Boldly challenging the half-truths and falsification of other writers, Tefertiller has gone to primany sources to tell the tale of the West's most misunderstood character. His reporter's desire for the facts in hand, Tefertiller has taken on the painstaking task of writing a book from historical evidence, rather than second or third hand gossip. Tefertiller uses the newspaper accounts, trial transcripts, and period diaries, to tell the tale. From all angles, an excellent read, from a hard working author.
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on 25 November 1997
Tefertiller sees Earp's story in a broader context--the role of a just man in an unjust society, or how to maintain order when the laws clearly don't work. Seen in that light, the story of what happened at the OK corral deserves a wide audience. This is a fine, well written book, offering a balanced view of Earp and his family. I found two things of particular interest: Tefertiller's portrayal of Josie Marcus ("Sadie," Wyatt's commonlaw wife) as a real shrew in her later years, and his sympathetic view of Stuart Lake, Wyatt's first real biographer.
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on 25 November 2014
For anybody who grew up as I did, watching westerns on TV, Wyatt Earp has a mythical reputation as the quintessential lawman - a man of few words who let his guns do the talking. The real Wyatt Earp, of course, was far more complex and this fascinating book details his life from his origins in the East to his eventual death in poverty in California, well into the 20th century. In his lifetime he was a controversial figure, far better known for his unfortunate involvement in a boxing scandal than his brief career as a law enforcer but his reputation was enhanced after his death by a successful, if largely fictionalised, autobiography and then built upon by successive movies and TV series.

The book itself is a lively account that relies on contemporary letters, court records and newspaper accounts for the most part, with some direct quotes from people who knew him later in life, including John Wayne, who claimed to have based his career on Earp. The style is direct and journalistic and the author makes a successful attempt at clarifying the events around the famous gunfight. No doubt there are still partisans for either side who will find this either a character assassination of a great man or a justification of a murderous cheat but it seems to me to be a balanced account of a life lived on the very edges of civilisation by a man who sought out risk throughout his life.
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