Letters to the Book Editor: setting the record straight

This morning's mail brought me a letter from Reba Earp Young, Wyatt Earp's second cousin. Enclosed in that letter was a copy of your review of ``Bloody Season,'' with a comment from her to the effect that yet another distortion of the Earp story had been presented to the public. I was astounded to read your praise of this book, ... as it is, in nearly every aspect, erroneous and, worse, historically inaccurate.

Your conclusion that the life story of Big Nose Kate as told here is the true one, is in error. There is no evidence whatsoever that Kate was seduced in a convent or that she was ``sold'' by that convent to a man who then became her common-law husband. This is the writer's imagination at work, as is the rest of the book. To give Kate's or the Earps's story credence by praising it as true and/or accurate is to promote the falsification of our historical past. To comment upon the fact that ``the women remain,'' when Estleman himself writes that there were ``only three kinds of women'' on the frontier and not worth noticing, is to avoid a certain responsibility on the part of a reviewer to set the historical record straight. Someone, after all, must be responsible for the protection of our historical past, if not authors then those who read them.

The only criticism of mine of which the author took note was in changing the phrase, ``he mounted his whiteface,'' to ``he mounted his blaze-face roan.'' A good thing, too. As everyone here knows, a whiteface is a Hereford cow. I use this as an example of Estleman's ``meticulous research.'' He knows neither the language nor the history of the area and, it seems, could care less.

Lest I sound like a nit-picking reader, in my own defense I must say that I have spent years in this part of the country taking oral histories and doing historical research.... I live on a ranch south of Tombstone, and if there are - or were - any armadillos in the river or Mexican buffalo come to spend the summer, neither I nor anyone else has ever seen them. We also know that the San Pedro River flows north, as would anyone else who took the time to look at a map.

As a last comment - if either Wyatt Earp or any other of the ``good old boys'' out here ever uttered the phrase, ``I cannot feature a cuckold,'' I'd be dipped in what Estleman mentions most, again, perhaps, with the excuse of veracity. Jane C. Coleman Hereford, Ariz.

Space limitation forced the editorial encapsulation of my review of ``Earthbook World Atlas'' [Monitor Dec. 15, p. 20]. But the insertion of a final paragraph contained a judgment which is not mine. In no sense do I consider ``Concise Earthbook World Atlas'' a ``toy,'' and it does fit into my coat pocket. Bob Saveland New Bern, N.C.

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