In The Last Gunfight: The Real Story Of The Shootout At The O.K. Corral - And How It Changed The American West, Jeff Guinn cuts through the myth to tell the reader how wild the west really was.
The gunfight at the O.K. Corral is a key event in American culture and one of the prime examples of lawmen taking care of business. Only that the gunfight didn’t occur in the O.K. Corral, nor was it a defining moment in history.
When I saw the subtitle of this book I was immediately hooked. I never knew much about the shootout at the OK Corral, except what pop culture told me, and this seemed as good as opportunity as ever to learn more.
Mr. Guinn doesn’t join the hero worship of the Earp brothers, but tries to tell the story through facts and research. The McLaurys weren’t the incarnation of evil, much like the Earps weren’t the epitome of all that’s good upon this good earth.
The author paints a picture of a rough life where justice was swift and a murder charge would most likely be overturned if the victim has been heard walking around town threatening you or your family. A place where men were men and women were wives, prostitutes or both.
Through private papers, personal accounts and earlier scholarly work, Mr. Guinn pieces together a fascinating account of difficult life in a difficult place. After spending time on the background of individuals, social implications and history, the famous gunfight doesn’t seem any more an embodiment of good vs. bad, but more as a result of local culture, misdirected pride and ambition.
As in any good book, fiction or non, a good story and characterization are what make the experience a unique one. Doc Holiday is dismissed in the book as a brutish man who believes he is on death’s door due to illness and is constantly looking for a fight. Ike Clanton is looked upon as a loud mouth. Wyatt Earp, a man portrayed by Hollywood as a person without blemish, is portrayed with his many faults.