The Last Gunfight (Jeff Guinn) - Simon & Schuster - 2012 - 392 pages

There have been many books written about the Earp family and the gunfight in Tombstone, Arizona in 1881.  Most of the early books were slanted as pro-Earp or anti-Earp depending on political or personal biases.  This book by author Guinn is the best researched of the lot.  Guinn bends over backwards to identify the truth and to document the same as well as possible.  Some of the aspects of the Earp/Tombstone story remain a mystery 14 decades later and will probably remain as such.  In fact, all of the characters involved in the action were flawed in various ways.  The Earps may not have been as ruthless and lawless as the "cowboys" including Clantons and McLaurys, but they were certainly also looking to make their fortunes by hook or crook.  It is true that the Earps and specifically Wyatt Earp were victorious in the main battle and in the tide of history.  The cowboys were fighting to retain their lifestyle that depended upon illegal cattle rustling just as southern plantation owners fought to retain their slaves who were kidnapped from Africa.  The Earps, supported by Wells Fargo and wealthy townspeople, wanted to protect their gambling outlets and their hopes for financial success.  The real story is nothing like that shown in movies and television shows.  Life in the West in the 19th century was a dangerous, dirty and difficult existence for all.  It was a transition period from the East Coast colonies to the bicoastal country of today.  In effect, western expansion was our feudal age (1860-1900) that included the tragic Civil War, the displacement of native Americans and the settling of the country west of St. Louis.  I recommend this book as the best of all I have read on the subject. [JAM 8/1/2019]