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“That was the fork in the road. That was when everything might have changed.”

This book might be better named as Doc, the early years, because if you are expecting Doc’s story to take you on to Tombstone and the infamous shootout at the OK Corral you might be disappointed. That said, this was still an enjoyable novel and should interest those hankering for a closer look at the enigmatic John Henry “Doc” Holliday and the short time he lived in Dodge City, Kansas. Georgia born and a gentleman, Doc is ready to begin his dental practice when he’s diagnosed with tuberculosis and he travels west in hopes of finding a climate better suited to his lungs. The dental business doesn’t pay well and Doc spends more time in the gambling rooms and he’s soon *hitched up* with the Earp brothers, Katie Elder and more as a chain of events begins to bring them all together and fate sets them on the path to Tombstone, Arizona.

“When I am like this, dentistry is beyond me. So I play cards.”

The good stuff:

I very much liked how the characters were written, especially Doc (oooh, that bit on the piano at the last), and how someone gentleman born and bred could have fallen in with the crowd he did and set his life on a most unexpected path. I also liked how the author was able to show the reader the constant struggle he led because of the tuberculosis, and she did so without clubbing the reader over the head with it.  My favorite quote,

“…for the Kansas sky is black velvet on clear, cool December nights, and the Milky Way is strung across it like the diamond necklace of a crooked banker’s mistress.”

The so-so stuff:

I didn’t realize going into this book that the main focus was on his time in Dodge City in 1878 and his more infamous years would only get a brief mention, so I was somewhat disappointed in that and kept hoping for Doc and the Earp boys to get out of Dodge already. Despite a very helpful list of characters at the front, I still found it a bit too busy with the secondary characters and I felt lost more than once and had to refer to the front more than I would typically care for – and would probably drive e-book readers batty going back and forth (how do you do that anyway?). I also found myself reading along, very much enjoying the author’s writing style, and then realizing I didn’t understand one whit of what had just transpired. Perhaps it was just me again, it wouldn’t be the first time 😉

Despite my quibbles, this was a good solid read and one I’d recommend to those interested in the period.

My copy courtesy of Amazon Vine. All quotes are from an advanced reader copy.

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