Promised Land (Wyatt Earp: An American Odyssey)

Written by Mark Warren
Review by Tom Vallar

The final book in this trilogy of biographical novels on Wyatt Earp begins with the Earp wagon train arriving in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, in December 1879, because “the desert felt like the perfect place for a new start.” Unfortunately, some lawbreakers he dealt with in the past have also found Tombstone attractive and have formed a gang of “Cow-boys” that is terrorizing the new silver mining community. From the simple theft of a US Army mule, a tempest brews that will culminate in the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

All the colorful characters from Books One and Two people this novel: crotchety and consumptive Doc Holliday, brothers Morgan and Virgil Earp and their wives, Wyatt’s laudanum-addicted Mattie, two-faced sheriff Johnny Behan, and a cameo appearance by the dreamy Mexican girl who enchanted Wyatt in the beginning of the series. The famous confrontation of October 26, 1881, takes center stage, but the events leading up to it and its aftermath now make more sense in the context of the participants’ divergent aims.

Warren’s masterful research and vivid descriptive skills again shine through as he wraps up his trilogy. His afterword outlines the history of the characters after his novel concludes and justifies his depiction of Wyatt as a simple man guided by principles that didn’t change with the wind of political intrigue or monetary gain. Tombstone may not have been the “promised land” of the title, but it certainly was the touchstone that seared Wyatt Earp’s name into the public consciousness.