Book Review: They Call Me Doc
Behind the Legend of Doc Holliday
They Call Me Doc: The Story Behind the Legend of John Henry Holliday
In his preface to They Call Me Doc: The Story Behind the Legend of John Henry Holliday, author D.J. Herda claims to have originally set out to write a biography of Holliday’s longtime companion, Kate Harony. But while being frustrated by a lack of firsthand sources, he was visited by the spirit of Doc Holliday, who told him, “I’ll tell you everything you want to know about Kate if you’ll write my story first.”
And this isn’t the first time Herda believes he has received editorial guidance from the great beyond. He made a similar claim while working on his biography of Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren.
Whether you take the author’s revelation as genuine, or merely a fanciful justification for writing a first person account of a historic figure, the technique works in They Call Me Doc. The anecdotes of the dentist turned gunfighter are more colorful when relayed in his voice. As channeled through Herda, Holliday is determined to clarify some of the more unsavory aspects of his reputation, while being honest about his own shortcomings.
Of course, his friendship with Wyatt Earp and the legendary O.K. Corral gunfight are covered in detail, and are presented consistently with most previously published accounts. Few new facts emerge about one of the Old West’s most notorious figures but, if Herda was accurately inspired, They Call Me Doc does offer a unique insight into Holliday’s personality and his occasionally flexible moral compass.