Please Sign In

Please enter a valid username and password
  • Log in with Facebook
» Not a member? Take a moment to register
» Forgot Username or Password

Why Register?
Signing up could earn you gear (click here to learn how)! It also keeps offensive content off our site.

Book Review: "The Last Gunfight"

Recent Comments

Categories

Recent Posts

Archives

Syndicate

Google Reader or Homepage
Add to My Yahoo!
Add to My AOL

The Gun Nuts
in your Inbox

Enter your email address to get our new post everyday.

October 14, 2011

Book Review: "The Last Gunfight"

By David E. Petzal

"The Last Gunfight - The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral, and How It Changed the American West" By Jeff Guinn, 392 pps., published by Simon & Schuster

Let’s start with the title. It wasn’t the last gunfight in the Old West, and it didn’t take place at the O.K. Corral, and it didn’t change anything, but it probably is the real story of this infamous and deadly 30 seconds, or at least as close as anyone’s ever going to get to it. The shootout between the Earps and Doc Holliday on one side, and Ike and Billy Clanton, the McLowry brothers, and Billy Claiborne on the other, was one of the very rare face-to-face instances of gunslinging in a time and place where backshooting was the norm, and, along with the unpleasantness at the Little Big Horn is probably the single most famous episode of the Wild, Wild West.

Mr. Guinn’s great strength is not as a writer (He’s OK, but no better), but as a historian. He has dug up information that no one else has, and what emerges is a picture of the times and people that is unlike anything you’re going to see on a movie screen.

A few examples: Wyatt was what people then called a ne’er do-well. He aspired to a chief lawman’s job, money, and the respect of the community and never got any of them. He spent the entirety of his long life in and out of poverty. On the way to the O.K. Corral, he carried his Colt Peacemaker (not a Buntline Special) not in a holster, but in a special canvas-lined pocket. At the famous waterhole shootout where he split Curly Bill Brocius’ chest with a load of buckshot as bullets shredded his coat, he stood his ground because his pistol belt (he was wearing one then) slipped down around his hips and he couldn’t move.

Earp’s reputation as a lawman was nowhere near what it was when he wore a badge as it was in later life. Take, for example, the scene in Kevin Costner’s movie where he walks into an out-of-control saloon, fires his shotgun into the ceiling, and says:

“My name is Wyatt Earp and it all ends now.”

If this had happened for real, the cowhands would have said:

“Who?”

“Would you mind spelling that?”

“Clear out, you damn belch!”

“Go f*** a duck!

But then he would have started cracking heads, because he was a genuinely tough customer with his fists and with his guns, and as his friend Bat Masterson later said, completely unacquainted with fear.

The first book about him was such an obvious package of lies that no publisher would buy it. The second one, by Stuart N. Lake, was just as untruthful, but far more skillfully packaged, and it was what made his reputation.

And so on.

On the other hand, Mr. Guinn provides so much information, most of it not central to the story, that your mind wanders dangerously, and you find yourself wondering instead what Snooki is going to look like in 10 years, and you are tempted to cry, as I did, “Enough, for God’s sake, let’s get to the gunplay.”

On the whole, though, it’s worth the read, although you’ll never be able to watch a movie about the O.K. Corral again without snickering.

Comments (27)

Top Rated
All Comments
from rob wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Completely unacquainted with fear - Now that's a line for you.
I for one found this post both interesting and humorous. I hope this post is not riddled with lies and deception that so many have been accusing you of lately.
BTW - Does Field and Stream allow any of its writers to actually go on hunting trips any more and then write about it in print, or are we relegated to reading endless volumes of which $49 pair of Chi-com boots is best? Or how high to hang my tree stand? Or, the always riveting, which is best, hunting into the wind? Or downwind? You be the judge.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mike Diehl wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Rob you dastardly cynic! ;)

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Beekeeper wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Waht no Buntline? What kind of researcher is Mr, Guinn...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

The Buntline would have been very good for backshooting at longer ranges....just a thought.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Moose1980 wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Best book review ever. I doubt you'll find "what Snooki is going to look like" in a New York Times book review.....Awesome!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from ishawooa wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

And just when we thought we knew everything about Wyatt, Ike, Doc, Curly Bill, and the rest of the boys. Maybe Guinn should follow up with another volume concerning William Bonney or is it Henry Antrim, oh yes I remember it was actually Brushy Bill Roberts? Or maybe not...
Actually DEP's description of the narrative sounds to me like reading Shelby Foote's three volume history of the civil war. As much as I enjoyed the latter I think I will buy this gunfight book as I dolt on details. One of these days I am going to write a book about Portugee Philips, his ride makes Paul Revere's seem like a stoll in the park on a sunny afternoon.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jeff Bowers wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

So many of the famous stories end up being not-so-great when you know the details. I have enjoyed reading about all those famous gunfighters my whole life. I definitely like the fantasy of history more than some of the facts.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from davidpetzal wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

To Rob: My lies and deceptions are plainly labeled as such. Kindly address all complaints about the magazine to Anthony Licata, the Editor.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

HOT OFF THE PRESS (i think)

http://www.nraila.org/Legislation/Federal/Read.aspx?id=7138

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

My favorite westerns

My Name Is Nobody - SALOON SCENE...!. HD

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3L7DH0CilDk&feature=player_embedded

Gun-slap scene from Trinity

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9C-fRdCmzDk&feature=player_embedded

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

When I think of Rob, the word "sycophant" once again comes to mind

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from RangerDansDrink... wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Gents; What is the point of a blog if we all agree? So lets stir the pot a bit.

It could easily be argued that the President with the strongest character, greatest courage, brightest, Nobel prize winner (no not Obama, this guy actually did something for his), great outdoor writer (I heartly recommend: The Wilderness Hunter), founder of US conservation movement and the true spirit of America West and by the way posthumously awarded the medal of honor. Oh and he is on Mount Rushmore. That of course would be Theodore Roosevelt. Now Teddy liked to hunt and fish. And he lived for a time in the west (owned a ranch in the badlands of the Dakota territory. He needed to grieve when his first wife and mother died on the same day.). While in the west hunting and fishing (and ranching and traveling) he made acquaintance of some of the west most interesting characters. It is well documented that the gun fighter Bat Masterson was a close personnel friend of TR. It is also well documented that Masterson was a close personnel friend and occasional deputy to: Yep, you see it coming: Marshal Earp. Now you can't validate a friend of a friend, but birds of a feather do flock together. If old Wyatt was such a ne'er do well, how was that one of the greatest men of his century was a close friend of a lifelong close friend. No I didn't read the above book. But Wyatt Earp by Matt Braun is along the same vein but (from the DEP synopsis above), maybe more believable. In the Braun book the guns fights were over the woman Josephine, who had lived with the Sheriff Behan (who is said to have proposed) and been on both sides at one time or another, And Yes I have been to Tombstone and seen the corral. Most historians say it happened exactly as it was recorded. It has been documented to death. The reasons however are murky. Hows that for stirring the pot.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RangerDansDrink... wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Correction. It was TOMBSTONE by Matt Braun not Wyatt Earp. Good read.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from nc30-06 wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Clay, thanks for those links. Those were the best and I watched them all (almost). You have to laugh watching them. I would have given you a few more +'s if I could.

Hollywood always has to embellish the real history so people will go watch, then they still don't know the REAL history. The Trinity movies were just fun and hilarious.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jim in Avon wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Good point, RangerDansDrink, with this personally observed exception: Over a long and varied semi-public life, I have accumulated/accreted friends who would not knowingly be found alive in the same room, save possibly for my wake. And that, as of this writing, is yet to be determined.

Perhaps the most interesting take I have read on this cowboy contretemps described it as in reality a partisan political battle, with the Clantons, et al, being cattle-thieving Democrats and the Earps, establishment, bribe-cultivating Republicans. Which goes to show, I guess, how little things change over time...

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from white bison wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

I met the great grandson of Wyatt Earp once...he worked on
the docks of Oakland, California as a stevedore. The
men there, of course...gave him the nickname of "The Sheriff". He was a nice guy & had a lot of Wyatt Earp's
memorailia...including some guns I was told.
Best Regards,
Tom from Cody

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from white bison wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

One of the bloodiest "buckets of blood" Old West Towns was
right here in Wyoming...Arlen, near Meeteesee. There were killings over "The Lady in Blue"...
Its not well known, but was nefarious for its violence & danger. I'm surprised "Ishawooa" didn't mention it.
Best Regards,
Tom from Cody

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jere Smith wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

One of the luckiest men alive today.

http://moonbattery.com/?p=3333

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RangerDansDrink... wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Jim from Avon; Best laugh I had all week. Thanks.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

white bison

If someone looked back, they might just find they were related to the Dalton Gang. Clay Dalton is my Greatgeeat way back dar father

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

We Laugh,cry,drink, and die..and not necessarily in that order!
-W.Earp

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from azduane wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Who is Snooki and why should I care?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from JohnR wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Another good read by an author who likes to research her subjects is "Doc" by Mary Doria Russell. It is the story of John Henry "Doc" Holliday up to but not including the OK Corral incident. It shows a side of Holliday not seen in current fiction and how he came to befriend the Earps. Wyatt actually credits Doc for saving his life when Wyatt was caught unarmed by some members of the Cowboy gang in a saloon. It also delves into the politics of a frontier town which kind of sheds some light into the way things happened.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from O Garcia wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Dang! I'll never be able to watch "Tombstone" the same way again.

i think that's the message "Unforgiven" was telling us. The dime-novelist/"biographer" accompanying English Bob (Richard Harris) had the shock of his life when not only did Sheriff Bill Daggett neutralize the fearsome English Bob so quickly and easily, but also destroyed his reputation by revealing most of Bob's killings were backshootings, or that his opponents were too drunk, etc. From English Bob, the novelist moves over to the sheriff.
Of course, as soon as William Munny "single-handedly" annihilated the sheriff and his men, the novelist was on to him. "You fought them single-handed...That's a Spencer rifle, right?" Who knows what he will actually put in the book?

Who knows what other stories have been embellished beyond recognition?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from HannahDJackson wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Worth reading article,thanks!
Driving School

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ishawooa wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

White Bison, I have considered mentioning the "Lady in Blue" killings several times but never got around to doing it. Meeteetse and Arlen are very interesting places to visit. I suppose in reality Butch's escapades in the former town are better know since one of them involved Otto Franc and landed Butch in the Wyoming territorial prison. After that situation Mr. Franc was found dead suposedly from a hunting accident. All in all it would make a good movie. I wish Bob E. was in good enough shape to tell the whole detailed story.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from chaslee wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Most often a gun fight ends up being someone's last, then and today. Back then it was like walking into a Hells Angles reunion and saying "anyone want to arm wrestle". Grab your ass.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from davidpetzal wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

To Rob: My lies and deceptions are plainly labeled as such. Kindly address all complaints about the magazine to Anthony Licata, the Editor.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from ishawooa wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

And just when we thought we knew everything about Wyatt, Ike, Doc, Curly Bill, and the rest of the boys. Maybe Guinn should follow up with another volume concerning William Bonney or is it Henry Antrim, oh yes I remember it was actually Brushy Bill Roberts? Or maybe not...
Actually DEP's description of the narrative sounds to me like reading Shelby Foote's three volume history of the civil war. As much as I enjoyed the latter I think I will buy this gunfight book as I dolt on details. One of these days I am going to write a book about Portugee Philips, his ride makes Paul Revere's seem like a stoll in the park on a sunny afternoon.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mike Diehl wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Rob you dastardly cynic! ;)

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

The Buntline would have been very good for backshooting at longer ranges....just a thought.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Moose1980 wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Best book review ever. I doubt you'll find "what Snooki is going to look like" in a New York Times book review.....Awesome!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jeff Bowers wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

So many of the famous stories end up being not-so-great when you know the details. I have enjoyed reading about all those famous gunfighters my whole life. I definitely like the fantasy of history more than some of the facts.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

When I think of Rob, the word "sycophant" once again comes to mind

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jim in Avon wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Good point, RangerDansDrink, with this personally observed exception: Over a long and varied semi-public life, I have accumulated/accreted friends who would not knowingly be found alive in the same room, save possibly for my wake. And that, as of this writing, is yet to be determined.

Perhaps the most interesting take I have read on this cowboy contretemps described it as in reality a partisan political battle, with the Clantons, et al, being cattle-thieving Democrats and the Earps, establishment, bribe-cultivating Republicans. Which goes to show, I guess, how little things change over time...

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from white bison wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

I met the great grandson of Wyatt Earp once...he worked on
the docks of Oakland, California as a stevedore. The
men there, of course...gave him the nickname of "The Sheriff". He was a nice guy & had a lot of Wyatt Earp's
memorailia...including some guns I was told.
Best Regards,
Tom from Cody

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from white bison wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

One of the bloodiest "buckets of blood" Old West Towns was
right here in Wyoming...Arlen, near Meeteesee. There were killings over "The Lady in Blue"...
Its not well known, but was nefarious for its violence & danger. I'm surprised "Ishawooa" didn't mention it.
Best Regards,
Tom from Cody

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from rob wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Completely unacquainted with fear - Now that's a line for you.
I for one found this post both interesting and humorous. I hope this post is not riddled with lies and deception that so many have been accusing you of lately.
BTW - Does Field and Stream allow any of its writers to actually go on hunting trips any more and then write about it in print, or are we relegated to reading endless volumes of which $49 pair of Chi-com boots is best? Or how high to hang my tree stand? Or, the always riveting, which is best, hunting into the wind? Or downwind? You be the judge.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Beekeeper wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Waht no Buntline? What kind of researcher is Mr, Guinn...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

HOT OFF THE PRESS (i think)

http://www.nraila.org/Legislation/Federal/Read.aspx?id=7138

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

My favorite westerns

My Name Is Nobody - SALOON SCENE...!. HD

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3L7DH0CilDk&feature=player_embedded

Gun-slap scene from Trinity

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9C-fRdCmzDk&feature=player_embedded

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RangerDansDrink... wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Gents; What is the point of a blog if we all agree? So lets stir the pot a bit.

It could easily be argued that the President with the strongest character, greatest courage, brightest, Nobel prize winner (no not Obama, this guy actually did something for his), great outdoor writer (I heartly recommend: The Wilderness Hunter), founder of US conservation movement and the true spirit of America West and by the way posthumously awarded the medal of honor. Oh and he is on Mount Rushmore. That of course would be Theodore Roosevelt. Now Teddy liked to hunt and fish. And he lived for a time in the west (owned a ranch in the badlands of the Dakota territory. He needed to grieve when his first wife and mother died on the same day.). While in the west hunting and fishing (and ranching and traveling) he made acquaintance of some of the west most interesting characters. It is well documented that the gun fighter Bat Masterson was a close personnel friend of TR. It is also well documented that Masterson was a close personnel friend and occasional deputy to: Yep, you see it coming: Marshal Earp. Now you can't validate a friend of a friend, but birds of a feather do flock together. If old Wyatt was such a ne'er do well, how was that one of the greatest men of his century was a close friend of a lifelong close friend. No I didn't read the above book. But Wyatt Earp by Matt Braun is along the same vein but (from the DEP synopsis above), maybe more believable. In the Braun book the guns fights were over the woman Josephine, who had lived with the Sheriff Behan (who is said to have proposed) and been on both sides at one time or another, And Yes I have been to Tombstone and seen the corral. Most historians say it happened exactly as it was recorded. It has been documented to death. The reasons however are murky. Hows that for stirring the pot.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RangerDansDrink... wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Jim from Avon; Best laugh I had all week. Thanks.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

We Laugh,cry,drink, and die..and not necessarily in that order!
-W.Earp

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RangerDansDrink... wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Correction. It was TOMBSTONE by Matt Braun not Wyatt Earp. Good read.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from nc30-06 wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Clay, thanks for those links. Those were the best and I watched them all (almost). You have to laugh watching them. I would have given you a few more +'s if I could.

Hollywood always has to embellish the real history so people will go watch, then they still don't know the REAL history. The Trinity movies were just fun and hilarious.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jere Smith wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

One of the luckiest men alive today.

http://moonbattery.com/?p=3333

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

white bison

If someone looked back, they might just find they were related to the Dalton Gang. Clay Dalton is my Greatgeeat way back dar father

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from azduane wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Who is Snooki and why should I care?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from JohnR wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Another good read by an author who likes to research her subjects is "Doc" by Mary Doria Russell. It is the story of John Henry "Doc" Holliday up to but not including the OK Corral incident. It shows a side of Holliday not seen in current fiction and how he came to befriend the Earps. Wyatt actually credits Doc for saving his life when Wyatt was caught unarmed by some members of the Cowboy gang in a saloon. It also delves into the politics of a frontier town which kind of sheds some light into the way things happened.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from O Garcia wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Dang! I'll never be able to watch "Tombstone" the same way again.

i think that's the message "Unforgiven" was telling us. The dime-novelist/"biographer" accompanying English Bob (Richard Harris) had the shock of his life when not only did Sheriff Bill Daggett neutralize the fearsome English Bob so quickly and easily, but also destroyed his reputation by revealing most of Bob's killings were backshootings, or that his opponents were too drunk, etc. From English Bob, the novelist moves over to the sheriff.
Of course, as soon as William Munny "single-handedly" annihilated the sheriff and his men, the novelist was on to him. "You fought them single-handed...That's a Spencer rifle, right?" Who knows what he will actually put in the book?

Who knows what other stories have been embellished beyond recognition?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from HannahDJackson wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

Worth reading article,thanks!
Driving School

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ishawooa wrote 2 years 27 weeks ago

White Bison, I have considered mentioning the "Lady in Blue" killings several times but never got around to doing it. Meeteetse and Arlen are very interesting places to visit. I suppose in reality Butch's escapades in the former town are better know since one of them involved Otto Franc and landed Butch in the Wyoming territorial prison. After that situation Mr. Franc was found dead suposedly from a hunting accident. All in all it would make a good movie. I wish Bob E. was in good enough shape to tell the whole detailed story.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from chaslee wrote 2 years 26 weeks ago

Most often a gun fight ends up being someone's last, then and today. Back then it was like walking into a Hells Angles reunion and saying "anyone want to arm wrestle". Grab your ass.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment