Friday, January 11, 2013

It All Happened in Tombstone


It All Happened in Tombstone by John P. Clum

If there is one enduring legend of the American west it is that of the gunfighter. The image of two steely-eyed men facing each other in a dusty western street, their hands hovering above holstered Colt .45 pistols has been a mainstay of Hollywood ever since movies have been made. Did it happen in real life? Yes, but probably not as much as we've been led to believe and probably not quite as portrayed in the movies. However one place it did happen was in Tombstone, Arizona territory on a crisp October afternoon in 1881 when the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday fought it out with members of the Clanton and McLaury clan at the OK Corral.

First, some background is in order. The Earp family consisted of brothers Virgil, Wyatt, James, Morgan, and Warren. They had all worked in various towns as lawmen, saloon owners, and gamblers and tended to travel around together. Wyatt, Virgil, and James arrived in Tombstone in 1880 with Morgan and Warren arriving shortly thereafter. Virgil had been given the job of Deputy U.S. Marshal for the region around Tombstone only days before arriving and was appointed Tombstone Chief of Police in June of 1881. Wyatt and his other brothers tried to make a living as gamblers and also invested in mining claims and water rights. When the Earp's efforts to invest in local businesses didn't pan out Wyatt took a job as a shotgun messenger with Wells Fargo and was later appointed Pima County Deputy Sheriff on July 28, 1880.

The Clantons and McLaurys were part of a loose-knit group of smugglers and horse-thieves known as "Cowboys." At that time the term "cowboy" denoted an outlaw while legitimate cowmen were called ranchers.  The Cowboys viewed the Earps as badge-toting tyrants who ruthlessly enforced the business interests of the town. Ike Clanton, in particular, had regularly threatened to kill various of the Earp brothers.

It was probably inevitable that there would be a confrontation between the two groups but why did it occur where and when it did? That is what the book, which are the recollections of the author, covers.

The author of the book, John P. Clum, was the editor of the Tombstone Epitaph and was an eyewitness to the gunfight. Clum was also Tombstone's first mayor and was well aware of the concerns of its citizens over the "lawless cowboy element," Wells-Fargo hold-ups and all-night poker games which  contributed to the tension between the law-abiding elements of the town and the outlaws. These tensions, and other incidents, eventually culminated in the showdown at the OK Corral with the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday representing the forces of law-and-order and Ike and Billy Clanton, Tom and Frank McLaury, and Billy Claiborne representing the outlaw element.

The book chronicles the immediate events  leading up to the gunfight and its aftermath which included the arrest and trial of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday for murder, the ambush and wounding of Virgil Earp in December of 1881 and the murder of Morgan Earp in 1882. The gunfight is said to have only lasted about 30 seconds but in that short time it resulted in the deaths of Billy Clanton and Tom and Frank McLaury and the wounding of Doc Holliday, Virgil and Morgan Earp.

These recollections were written some thirty years after that fateful October day and they were first published in the Arizona Historical Quarterly of 1929. Clum was a friend of Wyatt Earp and his account was written as a tribute to his friend after Wyatt's death in January of 1929 at his home in Los Angeles. And even though this account was written almost 30 years after the fact, and even though it was written as a tribute to his friend and shows its bias, it has the immediacy of an account from someone who was there. Clum was a trained newspaperman, and more importantly he stood in that dusty street in Tombstone on that October afternoon and heard the gunfire which makes his account well worth reading.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Warlord of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

About three years ago I started a blog about "interesting books." Interesting to me anyway. As I said then, since I run an online used book store I come across many books which are obscure, old, collectible, or just downright, well, interesting. I did two posts the last time and let the whole thing lapse. However I think I'll give it another shot. So here is Interesting Book Number 3.

Everyone who reads has heard of Edgar Rice Burroughs. His most enduring creation is, of course, Tarzan of the Apes. But Mr. Burroughs also wrote books in many genres including science fiction and westerns. Mr. Burroughs was born in 1875 and died in 1950. Just to give you an idea of the times he lived through, when he was younger he was a Trooper in the 7th Cavalry in the Arizona Territory from 1895 to 1897 after failing the West Point entrance exam. Though the major Indian wars were over by then Arizona had not yet become a state. And at the other end of his life he was a war correspondent during World War II. Quite a contrast.

Burroughs was not schooled as a writer, in fact up until the time he started writing in 1911 he held a series of low-paying, going-nowhere jobs which gave him lots of spare time in which to read the pulp fiction magazines he enjoyed. In 1929, reflecting on his writing career he said," ...if people were paid for writing rot such as I read in some of those magazines, that I could write stories just as rotten. As a matter of fact, although I had never written a story, I knew absolutely that I could write stories just as entertaining and probably a whole lot more so than any I chanced to read in those magazines." And so he began. His first story, Under the Moons of Mars was accepted and serialized by All-Story Magazine in 1912. By the time Under the Moons of Mars serial run was finished he'd completed Tarzan of the Apes which was published in 1912. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The Warlord of Mars is the third novel in what is know as the Barsoom series. This series takes place on Mars, a romantic vision of a dying Mars that was based on ideas made popular by Astronomer Percival Lowell in the early 20th century.

Barsoom is the Martian word for Mars. The first three novels in this series, A Princess of Mars, The Gods of Mars, and The Warlord of Mars, form a trilogy in which earthling John Carter fights villains and eventually saves and marries Dejah Thors, the princess. Many of the Barsoom novels were serialized in popular magazines of the day before being published as novels.

The Warlord of Mars was first published by A. C. McClurg & Co. in 1919. There were two printings before the book was reprinted twice by Grosset & Dunlap. It was further reprinted by Burroughs himself in 1948 by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Incorporated of Tarzana, California.

Of course, Tarzan is well-known even to audiences of today because of the many movies that have produced over the years. And the Barsoom series has been cited by many well-known science fiction writers as having influenced them in their youth to begin their own writing.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Interesting Books - Number 2

The next book in my look at interesting books is, "RAF Coastal Command, 1936-1969" by Chris Ashworth.

"Coastal" was formed in 1936 as a small reconnaissance force operating almost exclusively on behalf of the Royal Navy. After the outbreak of World War Two, and as the war dragged on, the Coastal Command became an essential part of the offensive maritime operations against both the German U-Boats and surface shipping. The Coastal Command also took responsibility for weather flights, photo reconnaissance, and air-sea rescue covering an area that stretched from Iceland to the Azores. In 1969 the Coastal Command ceased to exist as a separate entity when its assets were turned over to No 18 (Maritime) Group.

The author, a pilot with Coastal Command during the 1950s and 1960s, has written a well-researched history that concentrates mainly on the war years when the Coastal Command was at its height. He covers the anti-submarine and anti-shipping operations in great detail. A series of appendices give detailed information on the Order of Battle for the war years, aircraft type, squadron numbers and commanders, and types of Axis submarines Coastal Command fought.

The book is well illustrated with photographs of the various aircraft used by Coastal Command, from Beauforts to Blenheims, and Sutherlands to Spitfires. Also contains a series of maps showing Coastal Command operational areas.

All in all, an interesting book for military history and aviation enthusiasts.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Interesting Books

One thing about running a used bookstore. You do come across a great many interesting books. So I thought it might be a good idea to do a little write-up on books that have caught my fancy and hopefully you'll find them interesting too. I'll normally cover one book per post and I see this as an ongoing series.

The first book I want to talk about is "The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands in the Light of Archaeological Study" by Yigael Yadin.  Yigael Yadin was an Israeli archaeologist, politician, and the Second Chief of the Israel Defense Forces.  In 1956 he received the Israel prize for his doctoral thesis on the translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls. As an archaeologist he excavated some of the most important sites in the region, including the Qumran Caves, Masada, Hazor, and Tel Megiddo.

The "Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands" covers all lands of the Bible, from Anatolia to Egypt and from Palestine to Mesopotamia, a part of the world containing nations and countries that had been fighting each other over long periods of history. The author felt that only a complete analysis from both the military and archaeological point of view would allow the reader to comprehend the development of warfare in all its aspects: weapons, fortifications, army organizations, and tactics.

This is a two volume set. The books are organized to first present an overview of the different aspects that all of the military organizations had in common, such as mobility, firepower, and security. The books then break down these by country/kingdom beginning with the fortifications of Jericho (7000 B.C.) through the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah (920-586 B.C.) 

The text is rich in detail and is augmented by line drawings and color plates showing various fortifications, weapons, battles, tactics as they appear in the archaeological record. This set is truly an interesting read and should appeal to both the person interested in ancient archaeology as well as those interested in ancient military tactics and warfare.