cover image Doc Holliday's Woman

Doc Holliday's Woman

Jane Candia Coleman / Author Warner Books $19.95 (325p) ISBN 9

Coleman's first novel (after the short-story collection Discovering Eve) is a spirited fictional biography of Kate Elder, whose adventure-filled life in the Wild West included a long and volatile relationship with one of history's most notorious gunslingers. Based partly on Elder's own diaries, the story is told in flashback as Elder, 85, recalls her past for an inquiring writer (``He just wants to pick my brains, and me not dead yet,'' complains the ever-prickly protagonist). Born in 1850, Elder is orphaned at 16 and sent with her two siblings to live with an Iowa farmer and his wife. After the farmer rapes her, Elder strikes him with an ax and stows away on a steamer to St. Louis, submitting to the captain's advances along the way. In St. Louis, she learns that she is pregnant and hastily weds a local merchant. Shortly after losing both husband and young son to illness, Elder meets the handsome but tubercular Dr. John Holliday, dentist, gambler and killer. The passionate, on-and-off romance between these colorful figures takes them deep into the western frontier, from Deadwood to Tombstone, where the narrative climaxes with the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Told in a suitably forthright style, Coleman's fast-moving yarn is enlivened by crisp dialogue and an abundance of historical cameos and detail. (May)