“The study of Wyatt Earp and the literature that has resulted from it has come to be called ‘Earpiana,’” Roberts writes.
University of North Texas Press has published a remarkable book about legendary gunfighter/lawman Wyatt Earp.
A Wyatt Earp Anthology: Long May His Story Be Told ($45 hardcover) is remarkable in its breadth (sixty-three stories) and its heft (900 pages). The volume was edited by Western scholars/historians Roy B. Young, Gary L. Roberts, and Casey Tefertiller and includes pieces by about forty writers.
“The study of Wyatt Earp and the literature that has resulted from it has come to be called ‘Earpiana,’” Roberts writes. “Earpiana broadly involves not only the life of Wyatt Earp himself, but also includes his friends and enemies, the places he travelled to, and the myths that followed.”
Earp lived to be eighty, outliving other frontier legends like Wild Bill Hickok, Jesse James, and Billy the Kid.
“He was not flamboyant like Hickok,” Roberts says, “or portrayed as Robin Hood like Jesse James, or reckless and daring like Billy the Kid. Earp was steady and cold-eyed; a quiet, square-jawed lawman and professional gambler. As the years went by stories about him grew, but they were fragmentary as well as inaccurate.”
The authors of A Wyatt Earp Anthology said they tried to be objective in their selections of pieces to include, seeking to present “a well-balanced, fairly comprehensive account of the life, legend, and legacy” of Earp.
Roy Young, the editor who initiated the project with UNT Press several years ago, is a retired Church of Christ minister turned Western historian and a distant relative of Frank Stillwell, who was murdered by Earp.
Young says he was an “Earp-basher” early on, but as he learned more about the man, “I now think of myself as well-balanced in my approach to Wyatt Earp. He was a product of his time, often walking both sides of the street, sometimes on the side of law and order and sometimes as the law-breaker. He is simply the most famous lawman to ever come out of the Wild West.”
All three editors are represented with essays in the book. Young’s pieces include “The Assassination of Frank Stillwell” and “Wyatt Earp: The Good Side of a Bad Man –Religion in the Life of a Lawman.”
Here are a few more pieces, illustrating the breadth of the anthology:
“Brothers of the Gun: Wyatt and Doc.” “Big Nose Kate and Mary Katherine Cummings: Same Person, Different Lives.” “O.K. Corral: A Gunfight Shrouded in Mystery.” “Wyatt Earp’s Alaskan Adventure.” “The Great Wyatt Earp Oil Rip-Off.” “Wyatt Earp in Hollywood: The Untold Story of How Wyatt Earp Got Ripped Off by Outlaws in the Last Outlaw Town.” “Wyatt Earp: Man versus Myth.”
A nine-page timeline at the beginning of the book, compiled by editors Roberts and Tefertiller, traces Earp’s life from his birth in Illinois on March 19, 1848, to his death in Los Angeles on January 13, 1929.
Reading A Wyatt Earp Anthology might not qualify you as an Earpiana scholar, but you’ll know more about the man and his times than you ever thought possible.