Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral (Paperback)

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Mary Doria Russell, the bestselling, 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 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.

Praise For…


“A magnificent sequel to Doc that represents a significant advance in her considerable narrative technique… Adroitly shifting points of view throughout, Russell assembles her cast in Tombstone, where her prodigious historical research illuminates the personalities and politics that propelled the combatants toward that corral.”

Despite all that has been written and filmed about Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp, Russell’s pointedly anti-epic anti-romance is so epic and romantic that it whets the reader’s appetite for more.”

“Well-written and provocative, Doc is a book that will haunt you.”

“Russell shows how the gunfight at the OK Corral is not the end of a hero’s tale but just 30 terrible seconds in a decades-long, nationwide struggle to evolve out of ignorance into enlightenment.”

“Epitaph peels back all the layers of the events leading up to and following America’s most storied gunfight, in a compelling, richly told narrative with complex characters, sharp context - and a number of parallels to today…a fully realized landscape with nuanced characters.”

“Russell breathes new life into the well-worn western saga of the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday’s infamous shoot-out in the Arizona Territory town of Tombstone… a raucously Hogarthian depiction of how the West was truly lived.”

“With vast amounts of research and a poetic prose line … Russell has crafted an epic tale … a stunning performance.”

Her writing is so vivid it seems she must have been there. … As Russell says, it matters where a tale begins and ends and “who tells the story and why … That makes all the difference.” Russell has made a big difference in bringing this story to life again.

Russell catalogs [the action] with power and beauty and a calculating eye until, as a reader, …understand something primal about the making of famous moments: That the causes are never as simple as you want, and outcomes never as clean or clear.”

“Mary Doria Russell has lifted the participants in the frontier’s most famous gunfight out of the realm of genre fiction and catapulted them into the realm of literature.”

“An epic retelling of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral that sets the 30-second battle within the broader context of the times.”

“This novel tells the story of Wyatt and Sadie Earp from beginning to end, not stopping at the famous gunfight and its aftermath but following the couple to the end of their lives, inevitably shaped by that 1881 blaze of gunfire in Tombstone, Arizona Territory.”

“Whatever it is you think you know about the gunfight at the OK Corral, however it is you think you feel about it, forget it all... Mary Doria Russell has 600 pages to burn a fresh understanding into you, and she uses every one of them.”
Product Details
ISBN: 9780062198778
ISBN-10: 0062198777
Publisher: Ecco
Publication Date: February 16th, 2016
Pages: 592
Language: English