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Decades ago, I went through a western phase. Max Brand, Louis LAmour, Zane Grey, Owen Wister (I once lived in the Wister house in Germantown, PA, and I still think The Virginian is one of the great western novels along with Shane by Jack Schaeffer,); all could be counted on for a reliable and consistent story with good (always slightly flawed) triumphing over evil. Then came writers like Larry McMurtrys Lonesome Dove, a classic that, with prequel and sequel, raised violence and ambiguity to an art. Robert B. Parker is now writing a series thats equally fine.Robert Parker is author of the Spenser P.I. series (classic westerns in a different setting, really, but which went downhill when Susan entered the picture,) the Jesse Stone series (excellent) and recently a series of westerns that rival some of the best. I have listened to Appaloosa (well-read by Titus Welliver) and now Gunmans Rhapsody (rather amateurishly narrated by Ed Begley - he just doesnt have the grave and gravely voice of other better western narrators), a moody novel about events at the OK Corral that turn Hollywood black and white into multiple shades of gray.The Earps are a family with typical family problems, and they are integrally part of political corruption and deceit in which they are willing participants. The catalyst for the shootout was Wyatts interest and consummation of a love affair with Josie who just happened to be his friend the sheriffs girl. (The ultimate result was a county posse chasing a federal posse.) Throw this in with lingering Union versus Confederate sympathies, lots of guns, and a recipe for disaster was cooking. Its always difficult writing about events that have achieved mythic status; Parker does a credible job.Some reviewers have suggested that the brooding Earp bears some resemblance to Spencer, Parkers hero of the long-running series. I didnt sense that although I might be myopic to the connection, certainly not the Spenser of Susan years.Parker intersperses in the story actual news stories and letters, of questionable value to the story, but which I found historically interesting if not pertinent. An epilogue lists the deaths of the participants. Surprisingly, Josie lived until 1944. I suggest reading the Wikipedia entry for Wyatt to place everything firmly in historical perspective
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