Western history bookshelves are filled with biographies of the well-known and famous, and that is especially true for men and women such as the Earps and Calamity Jane (see reviews below), so it is especially satisfying to receive new biographies of lesser-known historical figures such as Chuck Parson’s bio of Texas Ranger Lee Hall (see Jim Wilson’s review, below) and Peter Brand’s latest, Doc Holliday’s Nemesis: The Story of Johnny Tyler & Tombstone’s Gamblers’ War (TombstoneVendetta.com, $30).
Brand, a well-respected Old West historian from Australia, specializes in researching and writing biographies of men whose lives intersected with the infamous characters of the Earp-Cowboy conflicts in Tombstone and Cochise County in Arizona Territory. His excellent biography of gambler Johnny Tyler showcases his adroit and detailed research skills and should be of immediate great interest to students and scholars of the late-19th-century Western boomtown era of vice, gambling and saloons.
Tyler, a confirmed member of the sporting life fraternity, was well-known in the gambling communities he frequented during his alcoholic, violent and unfulfilled life, and Brand brilliantly chronicles the gambler’s misguided life from his childhood to his burial in an unmarked grave. “Johnny Tyler left no memoirs, diaries nor personal recollections,” writes Brand, “so his life has been traced through the use of contemporary newspapers and historical documents. Tyler emerges as an aggressive gambler, a dangerous enemy, and a man seemingly seduced by life on the edge, who ultimately was not able to control his addictions.”
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