From the archives: Mary Doria Russell on what really happened at the O.K. Corral

OK Corral Documents
The O.K. Corral is shown in Tombstone, Ariz.
Matt York | AP 2010
'Epitaph' by Mary Doria Russell
'Epitaph' by Mary Doria Russell
Courtesy of Harper Collins

Everyone's heard the story of the shootout at the O.K. Corral. It's been immortalized in over 40 feature films and written about in 1,000 books.

But Mary Doria Russell refused to accept the story as we know it. Her 2015 novel novel digs for truth in the conflict that made Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday household names.

While researching “Epitaph,” Russell tracked down diaries, census records and first-hand accounts of the O.K. Corral shootout.

“It has been simplified and scrubbed up and changed and ultimately you have fiction based on fiction based on fiction,” Russell told host Kerri Miller. “What I was trying to do was get back to the real people, peel away the mythology, find the core of historical truth and work with that instead of just accepting the way it had been portrayed in movies for years."

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

It’s a fascinating conversation from our archives, one that we hope will whet your appetite for another book that dives into the true story of the American West. This Friday on Big Books and Bold Ideas, Miller talks with Katie Hickman, whose new book “Brave Hearted” tells tales of women of the American West.


  • Mary Doria Russell is an award-winning author of seven bestselling novels, including two novels about the West, “Doc” and “Epitaph.”

To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above. 

Subscribe to the MPR News with Kerri Miller podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts or RSS.

Subscribe to the Thread newsletter for the latest book and author news and must-read recommendations.