The infamous afternoon showdown – with Wyatt Earp, two of his brothers, and Doc Holliday on one side and the Clanton gang on the other – is often shorthand for a confrontation between lawmen and bandits, justice and crime, good and evil, and for the moment the West was finally won
The truth, as Guinn points out in his book, The Last Gunfight, is more complex. Earp, often portrayed as a straight-shooting crimefighter, was a more ambiguous character: socially ambitious, status-hungry, and sometimes self-mythologizing – a man who needed a high-profile arrest or capture to help him win the upcoming election for sheriff of Cochise County.
I’ve had my eye on this book as well. I’ve been doing a lot of research on the Old West and have gained a better understanding of the complexity of that time. As far as some of these legends and mythologized events go, I’m reminded of the line from T.S. Eliot: “Between the idea and the reality/falls the shadow”.