The lovely and brief tale when Doc Holliday and Earps collide...in a friendly sort of way. And while it does contain lots of guns, whoring, and a murder or two (all things you expect from a good western)its a surprisingly quiet and beautiful tale.
A first and last chapters effectively bookend this story with and introduction to Doc Holliday's start in the world and his end. This structure was incredibly effective at lasering the focus on the few months in Dodge City, KS where Doc befriends the Earps among others and seemingly lets go of his hopes to have any kind of conventional life once and for all. Doc is a consumptive- a death sentence that he struggles to live with. There is a beautiful passage that perfectly :
"On the morning of Aug. 14, 1878, Doc Holliday believed in his death exactly as you do- today, at this very moment. He knew that he was mortal just as you do. Ofcourse you know you'll die some day, but...not quite the same way you know the sun will rise tomorrow or that dropped objects fall.
The great bitch-goddess Hope sees to that." (pg 289)
Hope keeps him living but ultimately betrays him.
But the books isn't as grim as all that. The relationships that are revealed; between the Earp brothers especially Wyatt and Morgan, between the Earp's and Doc, between Doc and Kate, between Doc and China Joe, between the Dodge City residents and a Catholic monk who used to be a priest; are beautiful and wrapped in a great narrative. The City of Dodge City and its politics and citizens is so real you can almost taste the dust and smell the cowboys. In fact one of the pieces of music evoked (Beethovens 5th Piano Concerto, "The Emperor") was described so deliciously I had to look it up and listen to it as I read.
Really fantastic book. Will definitely be exploring more from Mary Doria Russell.