Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cannonball! Book #3 Is Rootin' Tootin'!

BOOK #3: Wyatt Earp Speaks! written by Wyatt Earp and Others, Edited by John Richard Stephens
During my sophomore year of high school, I began what would become a years-long love affair with Wyatt Earp and the world of westerns. Something about manifest destiny and the construction of the western half of our country moves me: it was such a blended time of violence and inspiration.
The clue I gave to what this third book would be--"Kevin Costner"--may seem obscure, unless you're familiar with Lawrence Kasdan's epic bio-western "Wyatt Earp," the movie that started it all for me. The titular character is (in my opinion) marvelously portrayed by Kevin Costner--and after having read Wyatt Earp Speaks! I am more convinced that his interpretation of the famous Marshall was spot on--his voice matches that of Earp's, which is at the forefront of the book.
Wyatt Earp Speaks! is a collection of court transcripts, letters, newspaper stories, and other first- and second-hand accounts detailing everything from The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (which was actually next door) to the murderous nature of "Doc" Holliday (some say he killed 6 men in his life, others say 50). It's a really fascinating look at the language of the time, and how very easily stories became myths with the slightest twisting of words.
The clever editor John Richard Stephens is, like myself, very pro-Earp, so this book was a veritable feast of accounts of his stoic bravery and moral nature; however, Stephens doesn't hold back when the facts are incorrect. Throughout the various clippings and letters, he has scattered footnote upon footnote, clarifying dates and names, as well as sneaking in stories within stories. This is, of course, why the reading of Wyatt Earp Speaks! goes a bit slower: constant page turnings between court transcripts and their references makes for a slow pony.
At the end of the day, this book is most likely not for everyone; it speaks to me because of my love of the Earps and the history and mythology that surrounds them. However, I think this could be the book that gets people interested in that period of time, and (if anything) provides a unique look at a controversial point in our country's formation. I say, give it a chance!
Or hey, you could always watch the movie with me.

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