jeff-guinn-tomstone-ok-corralFive essential reads, alongside my work, that I recommend folks read before they visit Tombstone are:

Tombstone, A.T.: A History of Early Mining, Milling and Mayhem by William B. Shillingberg (Arthur H. Clark Co., 1999): Casual readers may find Shillingberg’s detailed writing style to be a bit dense, but the man is a vacuum cleaner when it comes to facts. Carp about his conclusions all you want, but he’s basing them on exhaustive research. If you want to “read” Tombstone, this is where to start.

Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend by Casey Tefertiller (Wiley & Sons, 1997; Kindle Edition): The Earp/O.K. Corral saga is just one aspect of Tombstone history, but so far as the general public is concerned they’re one and the same. If you’re going to read much about Tombstone, you’re going to read about the Earps, and Tefertiller was the first modern-day Western historian to tell Wyatt’s factual, objective tale.

“Too Tough to Die:” The Rise, Fall and Resurrection
of a Silver Camp, 1878 to 1990
by Lynn R. Bailey (Westernlore Press, 2004): Nobody—repeat, nobody—has a better grasp of real Tombstone history (or Old West history, for that matter) than Lynn Bailey. He cuts through all the gunpowder mythology to tell about a mining town that was the fruition of frontier entrepreneurism. You want to understand the real Tombstone? Read this book.

A Tenderfoot in Tombstone: The Private Journal
of George Whitwell Parsons–The Turbulent Years: 1880-82
edited by Lynn R. Bailey (Westernlore Press, 1996): Yes, this journal frequently mentions the Earps and the Cowboys, but far more critical are Parsons’ descriptions of daily town life, with church socials and fancy restaurants and hoped-for, but somehow never materializing, fortunes in silver. Both Lynn Bailey and Carl Chafin did yeoman work in resurrecting Parsons’ memoir. Bailey got to the printer first.

Lady at the O.K. Corral: The True Story of Josephine Marcus Earp by Ann Kirschner (Harper, 2013; Kindle Edition): Josephine Earp, common-law wife of Wyatt, may be more responsible than anyone else for the good guy/bad guy, white hats/black hats simplistic mythology concerning Tombstone and its legendary 1881 shoot-out. Kirschner’s book is important because it describes a woman’s typical place in the town, with all the limitations and frustrations that chauvinism guaranteed.

Jeff Guinn is the author of The New York Times bestseller The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral –And How It Changed the American West (Simon & Schuster). He is currently writing a series of Western novels for Putnam. The first will be published in early 2014.


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