Reviews of Epitaph

One of 2015’s best novels The Washington Post

If you pass up Epitaph because it’s a Western, you’re making a mistake. Mary Doria Russell has lifted the participants in the frontier’s most famous gunfight out of the realm of genre fiction and catapulted them into the realm of literature. Allen Barra, Dallas Morning News

Readers’ natural reaction may be to assume Russell cannot give them a better or different story tha the films Tombstone and Wyatt Earp… Her triumph lies not only in a gripping reimagining of the events leading up to the famous gunfight, but in [showing] how Wyatt’s name became the focus of political and ideological pressures that hardened his legend from coal to diamond. ShelfAwareness (IndieNext pick for March ’15)

Russell shifts her focus [from Doc Holliday] to Wyatt Earp, the ambivalent not-quite-hero of this Western Iliad… Despite all that’s been written and filmed about Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp, Russell’s pointedly anti-epic anti-romance is so epic and romantic that it whets the reader’s appetite for more. Kirkus (starred review)

In this follow-up to Doc, Russell is on a mission: to reveal truth. Epitaph…exemplifies the best of third-person omniscience, revealing innermost secrets, hopes and fears… A breath of fresh air. Library Journal (starred review)

Few writers have done Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday as much justice as historical-novelist Mary Doria Russell. Sacramento Bee

Epitaph peels back all the layers of the events leading up to and following America’s most storied gunfight, in a compelling, richly told narrative with complex characters, sharp context, and a number of parallels to today. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A raucously Hogarthian depiction of how the West was truly lived. Publisher’s Weekly

As Russell says, it matters where a tale begins and ends. Who tells the story and why — that makes all the difference. Russell has made a big difference in bringing this story to light again. Seattle Times

Adroitly shifting points of view through out, Russell assembles her cast in Tombstone, where her prodigious historical research illuminates the personalities and politics that propelled the combatants toward that corral… in a rich and resonant evocation of the Wild West. Cleveland Plain Dealer

A remarkable achievement… Broader in scope than Estleman’s brilliant 1987 novel, Bloody Season, Epitaph most closely resembles McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, in its moral core and plenitude of character. Washington Post

Whatever you think you knew about the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, forget it. Mary Doria has 600 pages to burn a fresh understanding into you, and not one of them is wasted… As a reader, you feel the weight and pressure of events, and understand something primal about the making of famous moments. NPR

Russell’s saga delivers the gunfight goods, but … also gambling, piano-playing, myth-making, tuberculosis, frontier politics, yellow journalism, preventative policing, vengeance killings, how mines work, and what it must have been like to live in a place as mad and dusty as Tombstone… You may come for the adventure, but you’ll most remember sticking around with … the real-life people who in so many other Westerns are just background. The Village Voice, New York.