Being a writer, albeit a poor one, I am quite often left disappointed in the books I read, but when I read one by a master story teller I will shout it to the rafters.
One such Author is Mary Doria Russell.
The Novel is Doc.
Like Cher, or Liza or any number of one named stars, the name Doc brings to mind the one and only Doc Holliday. But he is not the whore-monger, the drunk or the steely eyed rake that Hollywood has made him out to be.
He was a Southern Gentleman, raised with genteel manners and a debilitating disease that he learned to combat early in life.
He was generous and loyal to a fault, but he also could cut a man with nothing but clever words.
Mary Doria Russell uses language like a photographer uses light. Each sentence so full of life and vigor, expressing the nature of Doc Holliday like no other novel before. From the opening sentences,
" 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."
...To the final poem, written by his companion Kate Haroney, the story is full of impossibly poignant insights, gut wrenching descriptions of Doc's disease and sly humor. Once I turned the last page, I turned again to the front and began the story all over again.
Mary Doria Russell wisely leaves out the Tombstone chapter of Doc's life, focusing instead on the life he had before that fateful day at the OK Corral. And yet every sentence is infused with the knowledge of that day, the reader knowing what Doc didn't yet know. She sprinkles heroic context into the body of the novel, using The Odyssey, Homer and Classic literature with such a light hand that one might not ever notice.
The novel flows so effortlessly, it is almost as if you were there, in the room, knowing these characters like you would know your neighbors.
This novel is worthy of any Western lovers library. It is certainly going on my bedside table, where I will read it again and again and again.
6 months ago