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The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral--And How It Changed The American West

3.90  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,277 Ratings  ·  204 Reviews
A New York Times bestseller, Jeff Guinn's definitive, myth-busting account of the most famous gunfight in American history reveals who Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and the Clantons and McLaurys really were and what the shootout was all about.

On the afternoon of October 26, 1881, in a vacant lot in Tombstone, Arizona, a confrontation between eight armed men erupted in a deadly
Hardcover, 392 pages
Published May 17th 2011 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 1st 2011)
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Apr 26, 2016 Matt rated it really liked it
“It’s like Deadwood…without people.”
-- Me, to my wife, upon entering Tombstone.

When my wife and I drove into Tombstone a few years back, the first thing that struck me was its verisimilitude. It really did a good job mimicking its late-19th century self. That is to say, like any boom town gone bust, it was empty.

(To be fair to the Tombstone Chamber of Commerce, we arrived at the end of the season. Arriving at the end of the season is a skill of mine. I dislike crowds and lines and traffic).

Dec 03, 2015 Darwin8u rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
"Fight is my racket."
- Ike Clanton to Wyatt Earp


It is hard for me to avoid liking this book. Having grown up in the West, fed on a solid diet of Gunsmoke, John Wayne, guns, etc., the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was part of the narrative dust of my childhood.

Not to mention that five years after the shooting in Tombstone, AZ my paternal grandmother's maternal grandfather's maternal grandfather was shot and killed by (depending on the story and myth) either cattle rustlers he had cornered, or remn
Robert Jones
Jul 02, 2012 Robert Jones rated it it was amazing
Wanna be a little bit pretentious? STEP 1: Read this book. STEP 2: Watch Tombstone with friends. STEP 3: have fun pointing out all the little errors in the movie! Your friends will love it. I promise.

Unlike Every Day Life in the Wild West, the Last Gunfight actually gives a good idea of what life was back in the wild west. It does so by giving the abbreviated histories of nearly everybody involved in the legendary Tombstone gunfight. So you not only learn what it was like to have been a gunsling
Kent Horner
Dec 22, 2011 Kent Horner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
This is an extremely well researched book about, not just the gunfight at the O.K. corral, which actually took place in a vacant lot near the O.K. corral but about the history of the Earps, the Clantons, the Arizona territory and the township of Tombstone and why it was named Tombstone. The "blood and thunder" hyperbole that was common in books written about the frontier characters was foundational in the massive amount of "cowboy" movies and tv shows that peaked in the 1950's. Matt Dillon, the ...more
James Rada Jr.
Aug 03, 2012 James Rada Jr. rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This book reminded me of the line from the John Wayne movie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." I was reminded of it because Jeff Guinn did the opposite. Through a lot of research, he worked to trace back the beginnings of the "Gunfight at the OK Corral." In doing so, he actually wound up making the story of the one of the most-famous gunfights in history less interesting, though it was more correct than story of legend.

Guinn writes well, don't ge
Patrick Belair
This was one of my thrift shop finds ,and was a very good one.Mr Guinn tells a very deep and in my opinion very detailed look at the infamous fight at the o k corral in Thombstone Arizona.If you are a fan of the old west and all the life size people involved in the not so pleasant times check out this book you will be surprised what you learn. I was.
Karen Ireland-Phillips
This caught my eye the last time I swung through the library because I really didn’t know the story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral. Mary Doria Russell’s Doc piqued my interest in the subject. [return]Doc was a fictionalize exploration of a man usually portrayed as a cold-blooded killer. Ms. Russell traced his childhood, young adulthood and the course of his tuberculosis and alcoholism, and questioned whether Doc Holliday wasn’t motivated by friendship and self-preservation far more than ill ...more
Kevin Symmons
Aug 12, 2012 Kevin Symmons rated it really liked it
As a student of the "Old West" it was a pleasure to read a thoroughly researched work that debunked the myth of the heroic gun battle at the OK corral, which Professor Guinn correctly explains never took place at that location. I found his characterizations illuminating and honest. He gave a fair description of the times and participants on both sides of the infamous feud between the Earps and the Cowboys. I also enjoyed the background material and his explicit descriptions of the silver strike ...more
Julie Guthrie
Feb 13, 2015 Julie Guthrie rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks, 2015
I really, really like Jeff Guinn. He's all about historical context. This account mostly sets the stage (ha) for the famous Tombstone shootout--the actual standoff happens near the end of the book. The real story is a bit less exciting than other versions tell because several of the characters turn out to be big liars and because storytelling and embellishment are rich Old West traditions. I learned that guns weren't actually allowed in Western city limits, "cowboy" was synonymous with "criminal ...more
Zohar -
Mar 02, 2012 Zohar - rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
The Last Gunfight: The Real Story Of The Shootout At The O.K. Corral — And How It Changed The American West by Jeff Guinn is a non-fiction book which traces the famous gunfight. The author cuts through the myth to tell the reader how wild the west really was.

The gunfight at the O.K. Corral is ingrained in American culture and one of the prime examples of lawmen taking care of business. Only that the gunfight didn’t occur in the O.K. Corral, nor was it a defining moment in history.

When I saw the
Aug 28, 2011 Mark rated it really liked it
If you only want to read one book on Gunfight at the OK Corral - this is the best book on it.

Now for my longer review:
I've been studying the Gunfight at the OK Corral since I was in the 8th grade when I did my first book report on Wyatt Earp. And I've read entire books dedicated on Earp and Doc Holliday - so I had to keep that in mind when reading this book. Basically there's a lot of stuff I already knew but most people probably won't know.

The Gunfight at the OK Corral remains with us because i
Sep 16, 2012 Scott rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
One of the more disappointing reads I've had in while. I picked this up at the discount table of a local bookstore, and maybe that should have tipped me off. What should have tipped me off even more was reading the first chapter which struck me as a rambling, unfocused, and generally uninteresting hodge podge of generalities, but I figured it would probably get better once the author got into the real subject matter of the book. And it did, in a way - the generalities were gone, but there were a ...more
Tom Marcinko
Dec 09, 2012 Tom Marcinko rated it it was amazing
Shamless self-promo: I interviewed the author and quoted him in this article.

Pure kismet: I'd checked this book out of the library and it was sitting on my night table, patiently waiting to be read, before I even got the assignment to write that short item about the cowboys.

Here's Jeff Guinn's nut graf:

'As Pima County deputy sheriff, [Wyatt Earp] had to contend with a steady influx of arrivals who were every bit as experienced in breaking the law as Wyatt was in enforcing it. Like his adversari
Mar 13, 2013 Mike rated it it was amazing
I've read about everything there is to offer on this particular subject....and I found this to be both informative and very entertaining. Each of the more popular titles dealing with the shootout, or Wyatt and the Earps, and of course Doc Holiday, claims to be the end all be all of up to date research...and in the end where you fall really depends on your ability to incorporate new facts and info into your views despite any biases you may harbor..and just how far you're willing to go to verify t ...more
Stephen Welch
Have to say this book was amazing. As he did with Go Down Together the story of Bonnie and Clyde, Jeff Guinn here stripped away the myths and misconception of what really happened in Tombstone on October 26 1881.

Guinn is becoming one of my faovorite historians to read. With the Last Gunfight Guinn doesn't tell this story just from the side of the Earps. And if your a fan of the movie Tombstone starring Kirk Russell and Val Kilmer and think this was a story as simple as the good guys vs the bad g
John Nellis
Jul 09, 2013 John Nellis rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-history
This book tells the story about the famous gunfight in Tombstone, Arizona known as the O.K. Corral. It actually goes into a lot of detail about the history of Tombstone, and the period of the Old West. It tells the backgrounds of the key players in the event, as well as what caused it. The book focuses a lot on Wyatt Earp and does a good job telling his real story. I learned a lot about the aftermath of the gunfight and what happened later. The book concludes with telling what happened to many o ...more
Dec 30, 2015 Jenine added it
Shelves: abandoned
Got through 2/3s and bowed out. I was impressed by the confident interpretation of the world view of the Tombstone townspeople. Didn't know 'cowboy' meant rustler until that term was nostalgified later. I was aware of the tension between visiting, partying cowboys and the townsfolk who wanted their money and then wanted them gone. This book portrays that very clearly. The level of detail got a little too microscopic at times. But I appreciated the way the author used the available sources and in ...more
Jim A
Jul 29, 2014 Jim A rated it really liked it
Good read that separates Hollywood from reality as to what happened in Tombstone in 1881, and the aftermath.

Jul 19, 2015 Donna rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was less than complimentary to Wyatt Earp and his family. The Earps were painted as opportunists. I think that can be said of most of the pioneers slowly eeking their way further west hoping to strike it big. The Earps, however, were also painted as low lifes with no moral compass.

I enjoyed reading the background on Wyatt and his brothers, even the background on Doc. There were a lot of facts mentioned that didn't seem like common knowledge. This book seemed like a labor of love becau
Jim Robles
Jun 10, 2016 Jim Robles rated it really liked it
Historians present history in terms of 'change and continuity.' Everything has changed and nothing has changed. Yup. A great read! I enjoyed this one.

The thirty-second book I have finished this year.

There was a social divide similar to today's, described in Elizabeth Sawhill's fine book "Generation Unbound - Drifting into Sex and Parenthood without Marriage," with much higher rates of marriage among the 'upper class' (albeit perhaps with more of a stigma).
p. Such shenanigans were foolish, but po
Sep 29, 2015 Roxanne rated it it was amazing
This is the second book I have read lately about this subject. It is about the shootout at the O.K. Corral. The actual shooting was on Oct. 26, 1881 in a vacant lot in Tombstone Arizona (and not in the O.K. corral) between 8 armed men and it caused a deadly shootout. Also the shootout only lasted a very brief time and it was over. So if you actually go to Tombstone the stories they spin are not very true. It was also not a defining moment in the battle between the forces of good and evil. This b ...more
Jan 01, 2016 Diane rated it it was amazing
"October 26, 1881 will always be marked as one of the crimson days in the annals of Tombstone. A day when blood flowed as water and human life was held as a shuttlecock."

Such a fascinating topic. The author backtracks and tells the story of all the major players prior to their meeting in Tombstone so that the reader can make an informed decision about each person's character ("Even in his best moods, Wyatt always saw the world as a place divided into friends and enemies") and motivations ("The
Jan 08, 2015 Aaron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have to give Jeff Guinn credit for finding and writing what seems to be close to the truth about this story. The men of the West really did have a knack for telling tall tales. They were quick to warp the truth and make outlandish claims that enunciated their role in the story. Things like saying they took on 20 marauding bandits by themselves with a single pistol. Though at the beginning I was finding fault with the book due to Guinn's repeated uncertainty about many specfics (he would say th ...more
A. Roy King
Nov 27, 2014 A. Roy King rated it it was amazing
A pleasant surprise -- "The Last Gunfight" was a great book. I was raised on TV and movie westerns, and the legend of Wyatt Earp has been a pervasive theme across fictional portrayals of the old west in general. Author Jeff Guinn has done an excellent job of research into the man behind the myth. As you might expect, the truth of Wyatt Earp is much more nuanced than the portrayal you see in "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral."

Useful piece of trivia: The actual gunfight was not so much a duel as an att
Ireney Berezniak
I've picked this up after reading Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell, intending to learn the facts behind the infamous shootout in Tombstone, an Arizona boomtown of the 1880s that owed its founding to the discovery of silver in the area.

Turns out, the fictionalized Epitaph adhered to the known facts for the most part, and so reading this title resulted in a fair amount of déjà vu. Russell tinkered with the timelines a little in her novel, but generally the two have been essentially identical in subj
Jun 05, 2011 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It seems as though every "new" book about the Earps and Tombstone (and there have been many) reveals some new bits and pieces of the legend, and Mr. Guinn's effort is no exception. His style keeps the narrative moving and the map of downtown Tombstone is helpful in understanding the logistics of the notorious shootout.

When taken as part of the whole western oeuvre, this is a valuable piece of history.
Apr 10, 2015 Gary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As I read this book, couldn't help thinking of the famous line from "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance:" "This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

The famous "gunfight at the O.K. Corral" was nothing like how it is remembered in the popular mind. The notion of who the "good guys" and the "bad guys" were was very fluid. The whole event was the culmination of much miscommunication and misunderstanding, sent off by a drunk Ike Clanton. No one was really fighting for jus
Day Rusk
Dec 23, 2014 Day Rusk rated it really liked it
Apparently in the late 19th Century to refer to someone as a ‘cowboy’ was the equivalent of insulting them. Cowboys were the rustlers and villains who played around on the edges of civilized society – or at least what passed for civilized society during the formation of the Wild West. That is one of the facts we learn when reading Jeff Guinn’s The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral – And How It Changed the American West. While I found that interesting, seeing how ‘c ...more
Jun 01, 2015 Carol rated it it was amazing
I've often wondered what the big deal is about Wyatt Earp, why Hollywood has made such a big deal about him and the gunfight at the Okay Corral and how one book would be devoted to that event. This book spells out the big deal. I had no idea Daniel Boone and the Texas Rangers would factor into this story. The author has done a great job laying out the history that led west to Arizona and the political, economic and cultural influences that made the west "wild" and contributed to what I summarize ...more
Apr 14, 2016 Joe rated it it was ok
This book was very entertaining, but I'm not sure that the title - or much of the narrative - is accurate. This book does provide some interesting insight into aspects of the events in Tombstone in late 1881, as well as what happened before and after, but just as much as he criticizes others for picking and choosing what they want to believe or distorting facts, this book does the same. I'm not sure what message the author was trying to portray and I'm not sure what benefit this book provides be ...more
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Westerns 3 13 Jan 25, 2015 11:52PM  
  • David Crockett: The Lion of the West
  • Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend
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  • Lions of the West: Heroes and Villains of the Westward Expansion
  • The Captured: A True Story of Abduction by Indians on the Texas Frontier
  • Independence: The Struggle to Set America Free
  • American West
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  • The Floor of Heaven: A True Tale of the Last Frontier & the Yukon Gold Rush
  • Crazy Horse and Custer: The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors
  • Crow Killer: The Saga of Liver-Eating Johnson
  • Washington's General: Nathanael Greene and the Triumph of the American Revolution
  • The Last Battle: When U.S. and German Soldiers Joined Forces in the Waning Hours of World War II in Europe
  • The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend
  • The Last Outlaws: The Lives and Legends of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • Wyatt Earp: A Vigilante Life
Jeff Guinn is the author of MANSON: The Life and Times of Charles Manson, THE LAST GUNFIGHT: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral And How It Changed the American West, and GO DOWN TOGETHER: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie & Clyde, which was a finalist for an Edgar Award in 2010. He was a longtime journalist who has won national, regional and state awards for investigative reporti ...more
More about Jeff Guinn...

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“Much of history results from apparently unrelated dominoes tumbling one over another.” 0 likes
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