ST. GEORGE – The “Southern Son” book tour will bring author Victoria Wilcox to St. George Saturday, June 29. Wilcox is the author of “Inheritance,” Book One of the historical novel trilogy, “Southern Son: The Saga of Doc Holliday.” She will give a presentation on Doc Holliday and sign books at Barnes & Noble at Red Cliffs Mall from 2-4 p.m.
Although the name Doc Holliday calls to mind images of the Wild West and the shootout at the OK Corral, before he was a Western legend he was a Southern son, born in Georgia in the last days of the Old South with family links to “Gone with the Wind” author Margaret Mitchell. The saga begins with “Inheritance,” set during the turbulent times of the Civil War and Reconstruction, as young John Henry Holliday faces first love and family tragedy, honor and betrayal, and a violent encounter that changes his life forever.
Get ready to learn that most everything you know about Doc Holliday is wrong. A few fun facts about him in the words of his cousin Mattie, “He was a much different man than the one of Western legend,” Wilcox quotes.
“In my talks I give a little quiz, asking, ‘Which of the following do you think was true of Doc Holliday? Was he A) a volunteer fireman, B) a member of the Methodist Church, C) a member of the Temperance League, fighting against public drunkenness, or D) a member of the organizing committee of the Independent Political party?’”
“The surprising answer is that he was all four,” Wilcox said, explaining:
Because Doc Holliday died young and was outlived by nearly all the men he knew, he didn’t get to tell his own story. Others told it to make themselves look good — and let him look bad. He considered himself a forerunner of government and a civilizing force in the Wild West. He was not, as so often portrayed, a dangerous drunk with a death wish. He was actually a young man who wanted very much to live and spent much of his time in the west traveling from one hot springs resort to another, looking for a cure. This isn’t to say that he wasn’t a bit of a Wild West bad boy, because he earned some of that reputation. But he was something of a hero, too.
A native Californian, Wilcox’s move to Atlanta introduced her to southern charms and to the home of Doc Holliday’s uncle which was built in the 1850s where Doc Holliday had spent many nights.
Initially clueless about the home’s history, yet intrigued, Wilcox said to her girls as they’d drive by, “Mommy’s going to do something with that house, someday. Maybe I’d open a restaurant, something with an Old South theme: ‘Belle Watling’s Place’ perhaps, playing on the ‘Gone with the Wind’ look of it.”
“I didn’t start out to be a novelist,” Wilcox said. “I was just answering TV and newspaper reporters’ questions about the people behind the Holliday House. But every time I was interviewed, the reporters got their facts wrong. So I made up a fact sheet for their reference, and they still got it wrong.”
But it wasn’t easy to get the facts right. When Wilcox began to do more research of Doc Holliday’s life, her timeline of his life out west based on previously accepted facts didn’t add up.
“He couldn’t be both here and there, couldn’t do this at the same time he did that, couldn’t be running from death and trying to kill himself in the very same beleaguered breath,” Wilcox said. “I wasn’t the first writer to see the inconsistencies in the supposed facts.”
Many writers explained it away by calling Doc Holliday crazy. “But crazy doesn’t account for dates that don’t add up and timelines that don’t connect,” Wilcox said. “Maybe, just maybe, the ‘facts’ weren’t facts at all.”
So her research over 18 years came from primary source materials such as wills, deeds and court documents. She also utilized secondary sources such as old newspaper accounts, letters and memoirs and interviews with family members. Wilcox traveled all over the country, from Georgia to Philadelphia, St. Louis, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and New Orleans and up the Mississippi River following the life of Doc Holliday.
“In trying to dramatize his life, I’d discovered his life,” Wilcox said, “or a lot of it, anyway, enough to fill three volumes of novelized reality as I relived his life from childhood to his last days.”
“Inheritance” was released in May by Knox Robinson Publishing, London & New York. Wilcox, a member of the Western Writers of America and founding director of Georgia’s Holliday-Dorsey-Fife House Museum, spent 18 years researching and writing the Southern Son saga, becoming a nationally known expert on the life of Doc Holliday.
As far as what brings Wilcox’s tour to Southern Utah, “Family,” Wilcox said. “I’m attending the Western Writers of America Convention in Las Vegas the day before and signing books there, and thought it would be fun to visit my husband’s parents in St. George while we were in the area. They retired to St. George from California a few years back and love living in Red Rock country,” Wilcox said.
“And I am looking forward to meeting my newest friend, St. George resident Patrick Curtis, who played Melanie’s baby in the 1939 film epic, “Gone with the Wind.” We were introduced over the Internet by a “Windie” – the nickname “Gone with the Wind” fans calls themselves. After writing a book about Doc Holliday and his real-life sweetheart, the girl who became the model for Melanie in “Gone with the Wind,” now I get to meet Melanie’s baby. It’s just another one of the amazing coincidences that have filled this project.”
“She’s a really good writer,” said Patrick Curtis, childhood actor, film producer and director, whose involvements include a plethora of old Westerns starring Charlton Heston, Raquel Welch and others, as well as more recently directing the 1995 TNT movie,”The Avenging Angel,” starring Charlton Heston as Brigham Young and centered on the Utah settlement of the early Mormon church.
“I’ve always been interested in the West, and she’s written a wonderful story about it,” Curtis said, who will attend Wilcox’s Saturday book signing. “It’s a fascinating book and I am looking forward to being there.”
Regarding coincidences, Wilcox said, “I suppose I should mention Nov. 8. That’s the day that Doc Holliday died. It’s also the date that Margaret Mitchell was born, and the date that I was born as well. Which may be why the house was whispering to me; we had something in common and a story that needed telling. You might say it’s been my legacy.”
Author Victoria Wilcox’s website, features the world of Doc Holliday, a trailer and a sample chapter: victoriawilcoxbooks.com
What: Book signing – “Inheritance,” Book One of the historical novel trilogy, “Southern Son: The Saga of Doc Holliday.”
When: Saturday 2-4 p.m.
Where: Barnes & Noble, Red Cliffs Mall, St. George / Telephone 435-627-8412.
Ed. note: Photo of Doc Holliday originally labeled as him was challenged October 2014; another photo, purporting to be Doc Holliday, also courtesy of Victoria Wilcox and her website, has been substituted.
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