Because of his “consumption” Dr. John Holliday leaves his well-to-do family and home in Atlanta and moves to a drier climate in the West. At twenty-two he is sick, scared, lonely, and in Texas. He gambles professionally and lives with Kate, a prostitute, who is his intellectual equal.
Kate is ambitious and convinces Doc to move to Dodge City, Kansas, a boom town with lots of money to be made from the cattle drovers. In Dodge City Doc opens a dental office but still gambles as there is little money in dentistry.
Doc finds purpose in his dental practice but because of his frail health he is usually in pain and fatigued making dentistry difficult at best. He struggles with the pain and his relationship with Kate using alcohol to ease the suffering caused by both.
It is in Dodge City that Doc meets and becomes friends with Wyatt Earp. A friendship that stands the test of time and the differences of the two men and lasts for the rest of Doc’s life.
I like historical fiction and this book was most interesting. The way Russell weaves fact and fiction it is hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. I found myself liking Doc and Wyatt, but not so much Kate.
Some of the stories within the story are funny and tender but most are sad. Television and movies tend to glamorize the Old West, this novel does not.