Reviews of Doc

One of 2011’s five best novels. The Washington Post

One of 2011’s ten best novels. The Christian Science Monitor and the Wall Street Journal Online

Doc Holliday is the tragic hero in this terrific bio-epic set in a version of the Old West more realistic yet more riveting than any movie or TV western… Fact and myth-making converge as Russell creates a Dodge City filled with nuggets of surprising history, a city so alive readers can smell the sawdust and hear the tinkling of saloon pianos. Losing their mythic, heroic sheen, figures like Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson become more captivating for their complexity… Filled with action and humor yet philosophically rich and deeply moving—a magnificent read. Kirkus (starred review)

This is an intelligent and realistic novel that sets a new standard for Western historical fictionAmerican Cowboy

Mary Doria Russell brings Dodge City to life in a colorful group-portrait of famous frontiersmen years before many of them would pass into legend at the O.K. Corral… [T]he rising tension between the corrupt, carousing, and well-armed inhabitants of Dodge and the forces of law represented by the moralistic Wyatt Earp and his brother, Morgan, makes a spectacular background to a memorable year-in-the-life tale of a fiery young Southern gentleman whose loyalty to his friends and love of music outshine even his fragile health and the whiskey-soaked violence of the western frontier. Publishers Weekly

This book is an adventure to read and impossible to put down. Lincoln Star Journal

A bold act of historical reclamation that scrapes off the bull and allows [Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday] to walk and talk and love and grieve in the dynamic 19th-century world that existed before Hollywood shellacked it into cliches… What’s so beautiful about this novel is the way Russell dismantles rickety legends while reconstructing her own larger-than-life characters on a firmer foundation of historical fact and psychological insight…plumbing the real heroism of these men and enjoying their capacity for tenderness... I am in awe of how confidently Russell rides through this familiar territory and remakes all its rich heroism and tragedy. Washington Post

Eloquent and lyric, Doc … draws its power from the grace and tragedy of lived stories.  Lightspeed Magazine

Russell creatively re-imagines Doc Holliday’s early years in this authentically detailed, evocatively rendered fictional biography. What elevates the novel above standard western mythologies lies in its crystalline characterizations, crackling dialogue, and vivid, less than idyllic descriptions of the time and the place. This robust realization of the man before he was replaced by the legend is not for genre fans only. Booklist

Intense, individual characters, so fully realized that readers can almost physically touch them, fill the novel’s pages… Doc’s restrained but magnificent struggle to rise above the indignities of his disease and of life in Dodge … is one of the delights of this surprisingly luminous and elegant novelThe Oregonian

Fascinating…  A fine murder mystery… Russell’s women are a match for any of the men in Dodge, and their presence in the center of Doc gives the novel an unforced verisimilitude. The Cleveland Plain Dealer

There’s plenty of grit and gunfighting in “Doc,” but also beauty and soul — the truer side of a man who went down in history for one moment of violence. The Wichita Eagle

The writing style fits perfectly with Western setting and characters providing a funny, touching and exciting narration. Russell presents a wholly human Doc Holliday while still allowing for the larger-than-life personality that fueled the folklore in which he has starred for more than a century. Provo Daily Herald

Russell grabs us from the opening sentence [and] holds our interest not with gunfire but by involving us in the turbulent life of the West’s most mythic cow town. Chicago Tribune

Full of well-developed characters and rich historical detail, Russell’s excellent novel will appeal to readers who enjoy a lively and vivid work of historical fiction. The Library Journal

Russell draws a bead on Doc Holliday and nails him — his southern drawl, his innate kindness and the hard steel that lies beneath it — as she re-imagines his story. Well-written and provocative, Doc is a book that will haunt you as you imagine this refined, educated man dwindling to nothing more than a hollow cough and a bloodied handkerchief.  Historical Novels Review

Doc is by far the best historical fiction I have read in many a year... Most adults have an image of Doc Holliday,but it’s a flat and colorless picture. Russell has brought him to life, and made him a complete and intriguing man who will be hard to forget. Illinois News Bulletin

A very sick man when he came to Dodge City in 1878, John Henry Holliday battled tuberculosis, the greatest killer of the 19th century. All the while, he tried to live life to its fullest. That may not be the stuff of legend or the script of a 1950’s horse opera, but in the thoughtful prose of Mary Doria Russell it makes for a moving and memorable portrait of the American West and one of its most enigmatic heroes. 
California Literary Review

A well-researched, powerfully moving account of a friendship struck up in a world about to shift from lawlessness to something that has at least the appearance of civilization…Even stripped of its outsized myths, the Old West remains the stuff of elegy. Richmond Times-Dispatch

In an “author’s note,” Russell says readers will wonder “How much of that was real?” Her answer is “not all of it but a lot more than you might think.” To which I will add that what is “real” includes, paradoxically, what she so deftly transmits: the luminescent aura of a tragic myth.

A superior character study… Russell’s prose honors the haunted son of the Old South whom we have known, to our loss, merely as a gunman and gambler.  America Magazine