Doc: A Novel by Mary Doria Russell

Doc: a novel by Mary Doria RussellDoc: A Novel
By Mary Doria Russell
Completed May 7, 2011

In 1993, I was entranced by Val Kilmer’s intepretation of Doc Holliday in the popular movie, Tombstone. While the movie was okay, Val stole the show with his slow Southern (sometimes slurred) drawl, intelligent one-liners and his character’s battle with tuberculosis.  In fact, his characterization of Doc is one of my top 10 movie characters of all time.

So, I was delighted that Doc Holliday was the subject of Mary Doria Russell’s latest novel. And just like the movie, the character of Doc stole the show. He was complicated, pathetic, humorous and generous. The book focuses on Doc’s move to Dodge City, Kansas, where he meets the Earp brothers. Through this setting, we learn about Doc’s friendships with each Earp, his desire to be a dentist, his alcoholism, his love affair with Kate and his constant struggle with tuberculosis. We also learn about the “wild west” – where cards, booze and money ruled the day.

Russell is a masterful storyteller – not only because she draws you in with her characters – but because she can paint a picture in the mind’s eye. The dust of the roads, the stench of men, the blood from a sickly cough – each chapter was a delight to the senses. And, if you’ve had the benefit of seeing Val Kilmer’s performance, you have the perfect person for your mental portrayal of Russell’s lead character.

My only complaint about Doc was the middle of the novel dragged just a little, and I lost interest in the side stories of the minor characters. Believe me, it’s a small complaint. With Doc at the story’s helm, the story that bears his name was intriguing and fast-paced.

All in all, Doc is must-read for any fan of Mary Doria Russell and sure to be enjoyed by lovers of American folklore and historical fiction. Don’t miss this dusty tale! (  )

This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.


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