For my original review, click here.
As the first of twelve short recaps of books that made my shortlist for the best 2007 releases that I have read (I should note that these will be in alphabetical order, with the rankings given on New Year's Eve), Emma Bull's take on the iconic Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was one of those books that I felt captured the spirit of the late 19th century Western boom/bust cycle. As I said in my original review, I do not tend to like Westerns, but Bull managed to pull me in from the very beginning.
A society in crisis teaches itself to congeal into one story only, and sees reality through very narrow glasses. But there is never only one story. - Amos OzThis epigraph distills the essence of Bull's story. What if there were more behind the motives of Doc Holliday, the Earps, and the Clanton Gang than just pride of place? What if one could imagine there being interstitial lines of magic akin to the silver and gold lodes found in the Arizona mines? What if the various ethnicities, especially the Chinese who were brought in to labor in the mines and to build the railroads, had forms of magic that might have influenced these events? And what if an author could combine all of this into a tale where people are still struggling to define themselves in an alien world?
These were the questions that were raised as I continued to read this 318 page novel, the first of two set in Tombstone, Arizona. For the most part, Bull answered these questions but presented other ones, such as what would happen next between the headstrong Mildred and the drifter Fox? The way that she made these characters feel just as dirty and ornery as the historical people who also appear here made for quite a bit of tension. Not only did you have these characters struggling to make it in this harsh environment, but you also had some interesting character dynamics that have left me eager to read the second book. Emma Bull did a fantastic job with setting up mysteries within a well-known historical event. For that and for her rich characterizations, she is one of the finalists for my Best of 2007 list.