A story has to have something going for it when you’re truly engrossed even though you already know, if you have the slightest interest in history, how it comes out in the end. In the case of Wyatt: Doc Holliday’s Account of an Intimate Relationship by Dale Chase, it’s not just the premise that does it, even though a Doc Holliday/Wyatt Earp pairing is a blindingly obvious avenue for speculation. And it’s not the sex, even though you get such a bang for your buck in that department that you may be feeling pretty chafed in the saddle before you’re halfway through. It’s not even Chase’s mastery of the written word, although skilled writing is something I value highly, and in this case the language has just enough flavor of the historical time and place to feel authentic without being distracting.
What really drew me in, and kept me itching to get back to reading, was the finely drawn character of Doc Holliday. A man who knows he’ll die young of tuberculosis has a complex outlook on life, even more so when he lusts after other men when satisfaction must always be a matter of danger and secrecy--but not, for Doc, of shame. Wanting what he sees as “what all men want even if they’ll never admit it” bothers him no more than his notoriety as a gambler who can kill a man with no hesitation or compunction if his honesty is challenged and a gun is drawn.
The book is foremost, of course, a gritty Western seething with explicit erotica, and adhering to more historical fact than most since its protagonists are well-known figures in both history and mythology. There’s plenty of action and violence, and even more sex. Fair warning; the sex scenes are not for the fastidious. Doc Holliday was noted for being particular as to cleanliness and attire, and Wyatt Earp is generally shown as grimly upright and law-abiding, but their no-holds-barred encounters get as up and down and dirty as anything you’re likely to come across.
The relationship between Wyatt and Doc is one of mutual respect and, often, of mutual exasperation, Doc isn’t by any means submissive, but he is by choice a definite bottom, even though some of the positions they get up or down to are creative enough to be unclassifiable. The initial surge of attraction is purely sexual, but over the years it develops into something much deeper for both, though they express it differently, and we only have Doc’s thoughts on the matter.
Early on he reveals the beginnings of an emotional attachment, as when he says, after an exhaustive bout of sex, “I moved my arm the couple of inches between us, nudging him as I spoke. This small touch felt most good as it bore another kind of intimacy, and I found myself wanting all he had.” But Doc’s always careful not to be too explicit about tender feelings, both because he knows Wyatt has a hard time dealing with such things, and because he knows he won’t be around all that much longer due to his malady. He’s hungry for all he can snatch of life, for good or ill. In the midst of a much later encounter, Doc says, “As a person undoubtedly headed for hell, I nevertheless knew none but heaven at this juncture, for Wyatt and I were both descending from satisfaction while ascending toward a repeat. The only better place a man could find himself would be in the throes of climax.” And then, minutes later, “’Hell, Doc,’ Wyatt said as he pulled out and fell beside me. ‘We’re gonna kill each other,’ to which Doc replies, “Not a bad way to go.”
Through years of gunfights (the OK Corral episode was only one among many), reversals of fortune, tragic losses, and brutal vengeance, these two come to find in each other their truest homes, a term Doc uses often and Wyatt admits to. Their story would be well worth reading even if it were told in euphemistic terms of close comradeship, but in Dale Chase’s hands it goes far beyond an adventure tale to stake an unshakable claim on the deepest desires and rawest urges of two exceptional icons of the Old West—and on us lucky readers as well. Wyatt: Doc Holliday’s Account of an Intimate Relationship is definitely on my recommended list for those who appreciate such stories.