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(Doc Holliday #1)

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  12,741 ratings  ·  2,334 reviews
Born to the life of a Southern gentleman, Dr. John Henry Holliday arrives on the Texas frontier hoping that the dry air and sunshine of the West will restore him to health. Soon, with few job prospects, Doc Holliday is gambling professionally with his partner, Mária Katarina Harony, a high-strung, classically educated Hungarian whore. In search of high-stakes poker, the co ...more
Hardcover, 394 pages
Published May 3rd 2011 by Random House
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Mackay Don't think of this as a "western," like Louis L'Amour or Zane Grey. Think of it as a historical novel that happens to take place in the West. The…moreDon't think of this as a "western," like Louis L'Amour or Zane Grey. Think of it as a historical novel that happens to take place in the West. The heart and soul of this book should not be dismissed because Russell found compelling characters in Dodge City.(less)
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Literary Westerns
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957 books — 1,116 voters

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Jeffrey Keeten
”He began to die when he was twenty-one, but tuberculosis is slow and sly and subtle. The disease took fifteen years to hollow out his lungs so completely they could not longer keep him alive. In all that time, he was allowed a single season of something like happiness.”

 photo DocHolliday_zps7b7a6bdf.jpg
Doc Holliday

This is the story of John Henry “Doc” Holliday. He is a lunger, a gambler, a fornicator, a gentleman, a killer, a dentist, and an accomplished piano player. He was a man capable of great violence one moment and compa
No offense to daises like Kirk Douglas, Victor Mature, Dennis Quaid or Sam Gilman**...but when it comes to Doc Holiday this will always be my huckleberry:

Tombstone is one of my favorite westerns movies of all time and I could give a rat’s rancid ass that it’s as hollywood a rendition of the Earp/Holliday story as there’s even this instance, Hollywood knocked the cover off the ball.

I wanted you to know where I was coming from vis a vis Doc so that you could put my review in some conte
Apr 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Note: This is the first of a two-part 'series' that continues, and ends with Epitaph.

From the Author’s Note: “Arriving at the end of historical fiction today, the modern reader is likely to wonder, ‘How much of that was real?’ In this case, the answer is: not all of it but a lot more than you might think.”

John Henry (Doc) Holliday and the Earp brothers (Wyatt, James, Virgil, and Morgan especially) have had songs written about them, movies and TV mini-series about their lives, and hundreds upon h
"I’m your huckleberry."
- Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday in Tombstone

I’m far the first person to bring up Kilmer’s portrayal of Doc in the movie when reviewing this book, but it’s hard to avoid the comparison other than just the obvious fact that they’re both stories about the same man. Much like Tombstone embraces the legend of a dying drunken dentist turned gambler with a talent and taste for gun fighting but also adds unexpected depths thanks in large part to Kilmer’s performance, the book specula
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
He began to die when he was twenty-one, but tuberculosis is slow and sly and subtle. The disease took fifteen years to hollow out his lungs so completely they could no longer keep him alive. In all that time, he was allowed a single season of something like happiness.

This book is an historical fiction book. There are many things that are true historical facts wrapped around some great fiction by the author. There are a couple of mentions of Tombstone in the book, but this is mostly about Dr. Joh
"To sell newspapers, the journalists of his day embellished slim fact with fat rumor and rank fiction; it was they who invented the iconic frontier gambler and gunman Doc Holliday. (Thin. Mustachioed. A cold and casual killer. Doomed, and always dressed in black, as though for his own funeral.)"

I have a lot of respect for an author that tries to set the facts straight, and that is exactly what Mary Doria Russell did here with this piece of interesting historical fiction. There are a myriad of wi
"At thirty, he would be famous for his part in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. A year later, he would become infamous when he rode at Wyatt Earp’s side to avenge the murder of Wyatt’s younger brother Morgan." (March 18, 1882)

The he referred to above is John Henry Holliday (1851-1887), known as Doc Holliday. This is his story.

Author Mary Doria Russell presents the story of Doc Holliday as if it were a card game. Here are the sections:
The Players
The Ante
First Hand
Julie Christine
If you follow me Goodreads, you’ll know I’ve been struggling with the book club I joined last spring. I’ve disliked, vigorously, four of six books we’ve read thus far. My reading philosophy forbids wasting time on books that don’t capture me in their opening chapters, but I’ve had to bend my rules to honor book club commitments. Number Five—a memoir—fared better, but only by a thread. Number Six was my pick. I loved it. I feel sheepish because it was my selection, but after months of insufferabl ...more
Nov 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Mary Doria Russell’s Doc is an audaciously modest novel. Its subject, John “Doc” Holliday is a footnote to a footnote in history, a supporting character in the overblown and lethal tableau known as the “Gunfight at the OK Corral.” The Hollywood Holliday is a supporting actor, educated, literate, and lethal, a scenery-chewing contrast to the taciturn Wyatt Earp. Think Dennis Quaid in Wyatt Earp, or Val Kilmer (at his career best) in Tombstone. These portrayals are fun, but work best in small dose ...more
Sep 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
See my review for Epitaph. I thoroughly enjoyed both and wrote a joint review. Both rank in my top books for 2018.
May 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kick-ass, blog
A youth in the South. An education in the North. Bred for life in the East. Trying not to die in the West.

This synopsis of the life of John Henry "Doc" Holliday is elegant in its simplicity and perhaps holds more truth about his life than the hundreds of thousands of words that have been written about him.

I will confess that my earliest exposure to Doc Holliday was Val Kilmer's excellent portrayal in Tombstone. I have probably watched that movie in its entirety no less than 15 times; however, I
Sep 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Doc by Mary Doria Russell would be a fun book even if it was an adventure as prologue to Tombstone.

Truth be said, as I read the book, the dialogue between the characters took the voice of the cast of the 1993 film, especially Doc Holliday portrayed as Val Kilmer. Russell herself said that this was not so much for the adventure of writing about famed gunslinger Holliday, or even writing a revisionist tale to be more historically accurate.

In some sense she has done both.

Russell said that she wa
This was a perfect novel for me. Russell brings to life a wonderful version of Doc Holiday as a man trying his best to play the “bad hand” of slowing dying from TB and of his friend Wyatt Earp as a man with a Boy Scout core compromised by family loyalties and a temper triggered by his hatred of bullies. The first page sets the context of this tale by minimizing some stereotypes:

“At thirty, he would be famous for his part in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. A year later he w
Jan 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: e-audible
Delightful audio by one of my favorite narrators, Mark Bramhall. He's so superbly skilled with a beautiful voice and range. It's a wonderful story and he took me there.
Aug 29, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle, usa, sample-g, bio, hf

I chose to read this book because I very much liked Mary Doria Russell's novel A Thread of Grace. I enjoy historical fiction, but not science fiction, the genre of several other of the author's books. True, I was not terribly interested in a cowboy story, but in a good author's hands almost any topic is interesting. So I was willing to give this a chance. I am glad I read the novel, but I do not believe it matches up with "A Thread of Grace",

This book is not primarily about the 1
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Summer of 1878. The much-too-famous thirty seconds of shooting at the O.K. Corral was three years in the future. Doc Holliday was in Dodge City, Kansas. It was here that he cemented his friendship with the Earp brothers---Wyatt, Morgan, and James. By this time, John Henry "Doc" Holliday was already a dentist, an accomplished pianist, and a formidable opponent at the high-stakes card games. He was also plagued by a nasty case of tuberculosis, which had driven him West for the drier air.

Doc arriv
Diane S ☔
May 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful well written book. Entertaining and filled with vivid descriptions of Dodge, its lawlessness and the people who lived there. Would have liked to have met Doc Holliday, the Mastersons and the Earps.
Genia Lukin
Feb 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical
The force of any book of Mary Doria Russell's, in my mind, is the ability she has to look back on history, and treat the people making it with almost infinite individual compassion.

This is the sort of compassion she brings to bear while writing the story of Doc Henry John Holliday, famous Wild West gunman, dentist, and consumptive.

In one of her earlier interviews, Russell stated that she'd fallen 'in love' with Doc Holliday, and it is clear from the tone of the book that this is very much the ca
Doug Bradshaw
Feb 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read the two books in reverse order. I probably should have read this book first, not that it really made a ton of difference. Epitaph deals a lot more with the Earp brothers, although Doc is a very important part of that whole story. And what a brilliant and creative author Mary Doria Russell is. The life and personality of Doc Holliday as portrayed here is absolutely fascinating. An accomplished dentist, poker player, a brilliant philosopher, a concert pianist, living among country bumpkins ...more
The Shayne-Train
Jan 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I will preface by saying: I expected this to just be a cowboy story.

I should not have. I have read The Sparrow by the same author, and found it to be a deep, touching story about faith and aliens and atrocities and recovery. But still, Doc is the story of Doc Holliday, so I simply expected a cowboy story; a rough-ridden, yee-haw, get along little dogie, bang bang, lookee here pardner cowboy story.

And what I got was a beautifully written, thoroughly researched, and deeply touching portrait of a m
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If you are not interested in Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, and Bat Masterson, don't let that deter you from reading this book. At one level, this book is an attempt, through historical fiction (more history than fiction the author tells us), to present an honest and nuanced portrait of people who to most of us exist, if at all, only as cardboard cutout characters. On another level, the fact that most of the people in this book are real is almost irrelevant; the book would be equally powerful as a wo ...more
Wayne Barrett
There were some good moments...a lot of historical events attached to the man that I was not aware of...and some not so good moments...too much side-tracking into the lives of secondary individuals that I could have lived without knowing.

BUT!? how can I expect to be entertained in the least bit by a story about Doc Holidays life in which the gunfight at the OK Corral gets no more than a side note mention at the end of the book???

Yes, yes, I know, and I've read the other reviews, the gunfight st
Amy Sturgis
I received this novel as part of the Goodreads First Reads program.

Mary Doria Russell still has "it," that indefinable storyteller quality that made The Sparrow one of my favorite novels of all time.

In this work of historical fiction, Russell paints a portrait of Doc Holliday's years in Dodge City, Kansas. It's a very compelling and moving story, and in the telling the reader gets to know famous figures such as Wyatt and Morgan Earp, and not-so-famous figures from different races, nationalities,
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Feb 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: Bill H
It's funny to read other readers' reviews of this book because almost all of them start by saying something like, "Everyone knows Doc Holliday/ Wyatt Earp/ Tombstone/ shootout at the OK Corral...."

Well, I guess I'm not everyone. I really had no knowledge of any of the characters or events that this book draws on, so while this may be seen as well-researched historical fiction, I'm forced to just enjoy it as a novel and let the quibbles over specific details be left to historians.

I would never
Tom Mathews
Mary Doria Russell's fictional account of the life of gunfighter John Henry Doc Holliday contains more truth than any published biographies and possible even more than the actual events.
Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
1.99 on 01/23/17

Very well researched. This book give us a good look at Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp and his brothers, and takes us into Dodge City. Strong character driven novel. A great read!
Apr 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: amazon-vine, western
"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 are going to be sorely 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 g
Ron Charles
Apr 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
If I had a six-shooter (and didn’t work in the District), I’d be firing it off in celebration of “Doc,” Mary Doria Russell’s fantastic new novel about Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp. Since winning top honors for her science fiction 15 years ago, Russell has blasted her way into one genre after another, and now she’s picked up the old conventions of the Wild West and brought these dusty myths back to life in a deeply sympathetic, aggressively researched and wonderfully entertaining story.

“Doc” is no
Nov 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of the Wild West
Recommended to Katy by: Vine
Book info Genre: Historical Fiction/Western Reading Level Adult

Disclosure: I received a free paperback ARC uncorrected proof from Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.

Book read late March to early April, 2011 and review written 4/5/2011

Synopsis: Born to the life of a Southern gentleman, Dr. John Henry Holliday arrives on the Texas frontier hoping that the dry air and sunshine of the West will restore him to health. Soon, with few job prospects, Doc Holliday is gambling professionally wit
Book Concierge
Audio book performed by Mark Bramhall

John Henry “Doc” Holliday was educated, a Southern gentleman, an accomplished pianist, a compassionate dentist, a gambler, and tubercular. Wyatt Earp and his brothers, Morgan and James, were the proof that sons raised by a bully will either follow in his footsteps or rebel by becoming champions of the downtrodden. These iconic figures of the American West are forever linked by the events of one afternoon in Tombstone Arizona. But this book introduces us to th
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Mary Doria Russell is an American author. She was born in 1950 in the suburbs of Chicago. Her parents were both in the military; her father was a Marine Corps drill sergeant, and her mother was a Navy nurse.

She holds a Ph.D. in Paleoanthropology from the University of Michigan, and has also studied cultural anthropology at the University of Illinois, and social anthropology at Northeastern Univer

Other books in the series

Doc Holliday (2 books)
  • Epitaph
“At the risk of descending to unscientific generalizations, 90 percent of Texans give the other 10 percent a bad name." - Attributed to John H. "Doc" Holliday 11 likes
“Every one of them has a story, and every story begins with a man who failed her. A husband who came home from the war, good for nothin' but drink. A father who didn't come home at all, or a stepfather who did. A brother who should have protected her. A beau who promised marriage and left when he got what he wanted, because he wouldn't marry a slut. If a girl like that has lost her way, it's-because some worthless no-account-sonofabitch left her in the wilderness alone!” 10 likes
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