The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral—And How It Changed the American West

Jeff Guinn, Simon & Schuster, $27 (384p) ISBN 978-1-4391-5424-3
There are no black and white hats in this gripping revisionist account of the famed 1881 showdown. There are only mixed motives, murky schemes, and misguided hotheads. Historian Guinn (Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde) uncovers complex figures who straddle the line between outlaw and lawman: Wyatt Earp, he reveals, was an impetuous gambling impresario and possibly an ex-pimp whose unprovoked bullying helped spark the confrontation, while Doc Holliday was an unstable cardsharp prone to settling minor differences with gunplay. Guinn sets the story in a Tombstone, Ariz., that's a Wild West version of The Wire, complete with seething political intrigues—what Earp was mainly gunning for was a post as county sheriff and its lucrative tax-collecting franchise—and a cowboy culture synonymous with thuggery and deeply entrenched in a semilicit cattle-rustling economy. As Guinn's exhaustively researched, stylishly written narrative untangles the personal feuds and social pressures, he explodes many of the Manichaean myths surrounding the gunfight. He replaces them with something as grimly compelling as a Greek tragedy: a tale of proud men drawn—almost against their will—toward bloodshed. 16 pages of b&w photos; 2 maps. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/07/2011
Release date: 05/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-4526-0115-1
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