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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
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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

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  1,589 Ratings  ·  231 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 i
Paperback, 416 pages
Published May 15th 2012 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 1st 2011)
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Aug 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
James Rada Jr.
Aug 03, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kent Horner
Dec 06, 2011 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
Good book if you are interested in White Hats & Black Hats of the old West. Kinda long in the tooth but fair report on the Wyatt & his brothers. My favorite bio was on Doc Holliday though.
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
Sep 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Kevin Symmons
Aug 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jim A
Jul 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good read that separates Hollywood from reality as to what happened in Tombstone in 1881, and the aftermath.

Terry Cornell
Aug 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Well researched book on Tombstone, the Earps, Clantons, and the infamous gunfight. Guinn dispels many inaccuracies and myths, and does a great job of describing Tombstone of the time. The real town was more of a prosperous mining town, than portrayed in movies and television. Guinn does an excellent job writing about the court trials, vendetta shootings, and life of the surviving participants including how the event and town have become somewhat mythologized in our culture. The author also does ...more
Zohar -
Jan 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Zella Kate
Mary-Esther suggested this author to me, and I decided to give this book of his a try since I've always found Tombstone, Arizona's history interesting.

Guinn is an excellent writer who has a knack for combining extensive research with an entertaining narrative. The story itself is fascinating, and even though I had read a lot about it before, I learned a lot of things I didn't know in this book. I really liked his thorough endnotes. They were just as informative and engaging as the rest of the b
Tom Marcinko
Dec 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
John Nellis
Jul 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jun 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the better micro-history books I love so much. This one covers an event that lasted all of 30 seconds: The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which is funny because the gunfight actually occurred on the street and in a vacant lot NEAR the O.K. Corral.

The book does an excellent job of unwinding the social and cultural fabric of mid to late 19th century frontier America to explain the fight in the context of the politics and economy of the place and time. The Earps weren't entirely good (by a lon
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
Julie Guthrie
Feb 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 22, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 05, 2011 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.
Sep 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jeff Guinn did a great job at clearing up a few questions I have always had about the actual
gunfight in Tombstone of which I have read so much. I also now have a greater respect and
admiration for Virgil Earp.
Jon Recluse
Jan 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Review pending
Luke Johnson
Growing up west of Dodge City, Kansas I can guarantee you the interest in all things wild west is still very much alive today. With 1993's "Tombstone" being somewhere in my top 20 movies of all time, I was very interest in hearing the real tale of the gunfight at the o.k. corral. All in all, this work by Jeff Quinn is interesting and paints a much different picture of Wyatt Earp than what the majority of us know. There's a lot of interesting history here and the author works hard to paint the fu ...more
Kenneth Barber
Jun 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book traces the life of Wyatt Earp and how he ended up in Tombstone. It relates how he became a peace officer and his travels through the west. Also included were biographies of his family, wives and friends. We meet Bat Masterson, Doc Holiday and many others. Wyatt had an interesting life outside of his law enforcement career. When Wyatt gets to Tombstone, hoping to find his fortune, he once again falls back on law enforcement.
The author explains the socio-economic situation that develope
David Lubin
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow...this book really dissects the days and hours that led up to the most famous confrontation in the old west, the gunfight in Tombstone, Arizona on 26 OCT 1881. Wyatt Earp and his personality, flaws included, along with his two brothers, Virgil and Morgan and assisted by Doc Holliday, faced off with four cowboys in the afternoon and after the dust settled, three men were dead, three were wounded and no one who was there would ever be the same. Details are very solidly supported by this author ...more
Patrick Macke
If you dig the movie Tombstone with Val Kilmer et al, don't read this book ... I mean, I wanted to know the "real" story too but the
movie is close enough to the truth and the book takes all the fun out of the legend and the characters ... the book labors under the weight of why the OK Corral happened; a way better book would be to base it on the movie and then provide historical facts and context along the way ... and, oh ya, not to be a butthead, but to write what amounts to a cultural history
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Westerns 3 13 Jan 25, 2015 11:52PM  
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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...
“Much of history results from apparently unrelated dominoes tumbling one over another.” 1 likes
“One thing the army didn’t do very often was swoop in to deflect Indian attacks on wagon trains of settlers—there weren’t that many such assaults. Between 1842 and 1859, about thirty thousand Western emigrants died while en route by wagon train, but fewer than four hundred were killed by Indians. The wagon train death rate was 3 percent, compared to the 2.5 percent average among all Americans. Ninety percent of wagon train fatalities came from disease, with cholera the leading cause.” 0 likes
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