Inventing Wyatt Earp by Allen Barra: a review

Allen Barra examines the evidence, and concludes that the real Wyatt Earp resembled the mythical Wyatt Earp. This book is, in essence, an argument against Frank Waters and his “revisionist” successors (I really dislike that term; it distorts how real historians work). This unsurprising conclusion is well-told, but the book’s a little digressive and chatty. And, as noted in one of the other LT reviews, the copyediting leaves a lot to be desired, though I wouldn’t go so far as reporting errors in “every paragraph.” Perhaps the new publisher cleaned things up with this edition.

The book has endnotes after each chapter. These are not usually traditional academic footnotes, but more often are just opportunities to add information that doesn’t fit into the narrative.

Worth noting: In the bibliography section, Barra directly takes on Glen Boyer’s body of work, even though he largely agrees with Boyer’s interpretations of events in Tombstone. In Barrra’s view, Boyer is dishonest, manipulative, and shoddy.


This review was originally published on LibraryThing.