You may think you know the story of Wyatt Earp. No movie or mini-series, however, can compare to the recounting of the legendary lawman’s life as it is told in Adobe Moon by Mark Warren.
The historical fiction novel retells what is really a tragic tale of a life full of disappointments.
Warren, a historian, spent 63 years researching Earp after reading a book at age 7 that fascinated him. A non-fiction account of Earp’s life was published in the 1990s and Warren said he couldn’t improve upon the work. Instead he wanted to combine his love for the novel, with his love of Earp.
What he produced is not just a historically accurate retelling but one that introduces readers to the heart of what many people only know as an American myth.
“It took me a long time to figure out what made Wyatt tick,” Warren said. “I knew the events of his life but it took about 50 years to understand the one thing about him that ended up being the key to all of this.”
That key was the fact that Wyatt Earp wasn’t simply courageous, which is the act of overcoming fear. Instead, he was genuinely fearless.
“People talked about him being devoid of fear. He didn’t overcome fear, he just didn’t have fear to begin with, that’s part of his personality and it’s a rare personality,” Warren said. “We don’t know many people like that but when we see it, it is evaluated as courage.”
The unusual personality trait may have come from his stature. Earp stood 6 foot tall in a time when the average man was five to six inches shorter. He was raised by a bombastic, overbearing father whose own confidence may have been passed to his son as quiet, fearless, confidence.
Earp was confident, yes. Successful, no.
While many retellings of Earp’s life focus on the small space of time that took place at the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which made Earp an American legend, much of his life was one failure after another.
This is what sets Warren’s book apart. This is what will make you devour it page after page. You feel for Earp. You root for him in his desire to live a simple life as a successful business man making an honest wage.
You drop your head in despair each time that Earp’s simple dream falls apart. Warren’s storytelling makes Earp real and relatable. He’s not a hero. He is a normal man desperately trying to build his place in the world, just like the rest of us.
“His life was one huge disappointment,” Warren said. “He had a vague dream of wanting to make it in business and be respected in the upper class but he always went back to law work. That’s what he was suited for.”
Warren wants readers to understand Earp the man, not the legend.
“When I started my research as a young boy everything was tailored for making heroes.
Everything we read was historically polished and Wyatt was made into a saint,” he said. “That of course started me off on figuring out the truth.”
Adobe Moon is the first book in a trilogy about Earp’s life. The next installment, Born to the Badge, was recently named a 2019 Spur Award Finalist and chronicles Earp’s move to Dodge City. The final book is due out in October and will recount the events at Tombstone.
Warren said he hopes the books will bring the story of this American icon back to young people, and, show them how he is less legend and more like them.
“I love to give him a voice, to give people an understanding of what it was like to walk into a situation, like he did, without fear,” Warren said.