Review: Tom Clavin's 'Tombstone' Takes Readers On A Ride With The Earp Brothers - 27 East

Arts & Living

Arts & Living / 1715109

Review: Tom Clavin’s ‘Tombstone’ Takes Readers On A Ride With The Earp Brothers

icon 2 Photos
Tom Clavin

Tom Clavin

Cover of Tom Clavin's book

Cover of Tom Clavin's book "Tombstone."

author on Jul 28, 2020

You know the expression, attributed to Aristotle — the whole being greater than, or different from, the sum of its parts — meaning that the way individual items combine can often affect the overall result.

In the case of journalist and best-selling author Tom Clavin’s latest historical exploration of the Wild West called “Tombstone,” readers should pay attention to the parts. Not easy because there are so many details here, in this, Clavin’s third book about the fading frontier in the late 19th century and particularly Tombstone, an old silver mining town in southeast Arizona, bordering on Mexico.

Tombstone’s is a “rich” story, Clavin writes, but filled with “exaggerations and outright fictions” mainly about its major players, among them the Earp brothers, and Doc Holliday and Bat Masterson, all lawmen, who didn’t exactly obey the law.

Clavin’s out to dispel the myths, but along the way he introduces many little-known figures who enhance the story, in fact change the story. How young they were, those lawmen and outlaws, sometimes one and the same. How bound by honor, subject to mood, disease or alcohol. Though Clavin does double back at times to remind readers who is who and interjects some wry commentary into his breezy narrative style, the cast of characters is large. It’s all through fascinating lore.

Did we know that the last and long-standing love of Deputy U.S. Marshal Wyatt Earp’s life was Jewish and had him buried in a Jewish cemetery? Or that “cowboys,” the staple of American art and literature, were not so admirable? As court and jail records show they were more often than not cattle rustlers, stagecoach robbers, angry drunks, men who earned their “sinister” reputation stealing cattle and elections, and working out deals with corrupt politicians.

They were hardly the antagonists of cowboy and Indian lore because, with few exceptions, the Indians had already been rounded up and forced onto reservations. To the dismay of solid citizens, cowboys were an “infestation.” As Clavin documents, they were a nasty force contending for control of the city. In other words, the gunfight at the OK Corral was inevitable and political. And deeply personal. The clannish Earps and the roguish cowboys were not just competitors for power, but enemies.

Eventually, Clavin revisits the notorious gunfight at the OK Corral on October 26, 1881 — the subject of so many books and movies — and Wyatt Earp’s subsequent “vendetta ride,” after he learns of the earlier murder of his brother Morgan. Generously citing sources, Clavin offers his own take on what was “destined to be the most famous gunfight in the American West” — what led up to it, who was involved and why, and how it forever altered the landscape and culture of Tombstone, “the epicenter of the Wild West.”

“Thirty shots, thirty seconds, three dead, three wounded.”

But it’s the surrounding parts that prevail. And give pause: it all happened not that long ago. The Arizona territory was the last of the 48 to enter the Union, and that was in 1912. And would you believe that the gunfight at the OK Corral didn’t even take place at the OK Corral?

Joan Baum is a writer based in Springs. This review first appeared on WSHU Public Radio.

You May Also Like:

STYLEHAMPTON: À-Tout-Àge Fashion Veteran Denise Johnston’s Burgeoning Brand

It’s not a new story: a woman with unique personal style comes to the realization ... 10 Aug 2020 by Steven Stolman

Neo-Political Cowgirls Boost Arts, Advocacy with Andromeda’s Sisters

Florencia Lozano recently found herself questioning what she always took for granted: books and articles ... by Michelle Trauring

The Story He Is – Roger Rosenblatt’s Writing Life

“Writing makes justice desirable, evil intelligible, grief endurable, and love possible.” – Roger Rosenblatt (from ... by Annette Hinkle

Life Drawing With Linda Capello

The Education Department of the Parrish Art Museum announced that teaching artist Linda Capello’s popular ... by Staff Writer

Backyard Theater At Guild Hall

Guild Hall is pleased to inaugurate the John Drew Backyard Theater (JDBT), a space in ... by Staff Writer

Ed Smith’s Reflections

The BCK Fine Arts Gallery @Montauk is pleased to present its third exhibition of the season, and its first show of the works of sculptor Ed Smith. In “Reflections: Recent Works by Ed Smith,” the artist presents a collection of bronze torsos, small bronze figures, small terra cotta figures and torsos along with monographs and drawings, depicting both his process and versatility. Throughout his career, Ed Smith has been known for his portrayal of the “heroic ideal.” His inspiration is drawn from the Classical Period of Greece, the Golden Age; a time period which drew its heroes and code of ... by Staff Writer

Present Tense: Black Lives Matter(ed)

“Africaville,” a powerful debut novel by Jeffrey Colvin, tells the story of the black experience ... by Staff Writer

Let’s Hit The Drive-in!

Sag Harbor Cinema’s Drive-in series continues at Havens Beach with films every Sunday night that ... by Staff Writer

Outdoor Music at Bay Street

Bay Street Theater has opened its outdoor patio and bar to the public five days a week — Thursdays through Mondays — from 1 to 8 p.m. daily, with live music performed outdoors (weather permitting) by local artists. The bar menu includes snacks and drinks, as well as Bay Street Theater face coverings and water bottles. All funds go to support Bay Street Theater, its artists, and staff. The theater itself remains closed due to COVID-19 government regulations, so all purchases are greatly appreciated. Drink specials on Bay Street Theater’s Patio Bar menu include the Mojo Mojito (rum, lime, and ... by Staff Writer

Mountainfilm In The Great Outdoors At SAC

Mountainfilm on Tour Southampton returns to the Southampton Arts Center again this year, with films ... by Staff Writer
logo

Welcome to our new website!

To see what’s new, click “Start the Tour” to take a tour.

We welcome your feedback. Please click the
“contact/advertise” link in the menu bar to email us.

Start the Tour
Landscape view not supported