Monday, September 30, 2013

Fall Bookhunting and Biographical Showdown

I'd planned to go to the Chatham County Library book sale last week, but I worked at my archives job on the opening day and Friday's headache decided me against making the trip for second-day pickings. I knew I'd get another chance at our local library on Saturday.

(As I hunted for books, my cousin was out in the woods bringing in the first deer of the season.)

After hauling three boxes home, I thought my best find would be an unused Picasso coloring book. But as I started looking up online prices, exciting numbers appeared for a faded little biography: I Married Wyatt Earp: The Recollections of Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp.

Alas, my copy turned out to be a second printing, and ex-library at that. Still, it looks like a fascinating book. The adventurous and beautiful Josephine (Josie) met Wyatt Earp during his famous Tombstone days. She became his third wife and the two remained together for 46 years until his death.

Josephine was very protective of Wyatt's and her own reputation. In her older, more reputable years, she tried to dictate a biography to two female relatives. She kept trying to omit the stories of her younger days — the interesting parts — so the manuscripts languished on the shelf.

After her death, Glenn Boyer, who grew up around Earp relatives and had briefly met Josie, added research to the manuscripts, publishing this popular book in 1976.

That's not the end of the story.

Two decades later, a Phoenix reporter claimed that Boyer had made up the whole thing. The book was pulled from publication and Boyer's reputation fell through the floor. Looking at the extensive notes throughout the book, I take the hoax claim with a couple grains of salt, although Boyer may be one of those writers who use "creative license" when it comes to historical conversations and voice (a practice I can't stand in nonfiction).  Here's a 2009 interview with Boyer wherein he discusses sources, Josie's own embellishments, and the "curse" of the Earp historians.

The photo on the dustjacket is a toned-down, edited version of a famous photograph, reputed to be Josephine Earp. According to the Collector's Guide to Early Photographs this partially nude photo, sexy even by today's standards, was printed in the early 20th century from an 1880s negative. As of this writing, an Australian seller is purportedly offering the original on eBay here. If it is indeed the original, the asking price is slightly lower than when it sold at auction in 1998. The controversy continues, as online sources debate whether the photo could have any connection to Josephine.

Speaking of photography, I added a lengthy biography on George Eastman to the collection. I found his story fascinating when I visited the Eastman House in Rochester, NY. Other biographies and memoirs came home in this bookhunting excursion, including Dr. Livingstone, Flora MacDonald, Lewis and Clark, and Iron Eyes Cody.

2 comments:

J Godsey said...

excellent!

Elizabeth Saunders said...

Thanks, Joyce!