The 30-second gunfight at OK Corral on October 26, 1881, has captured the imaginations of fans of the Wild West culture for 133 years. Much ink has been spilled to speculate about the precise words that started the fight, who started it, and how it unfolded. From the 1950s onward, the Earps were generally portrayed in a positive light, with dramatic black-hatted villains “getting their due.”
History is always more complex than that. When I first traveled to Arizona and found the story of May Woodman, who was a known friend of the cowboys (the term being a slur at the time, indicating criminal thugs), her troubled past sparked something—a new Muse came to me—one inspired by Cormac McCarthy and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. May wanted an independent life. She got swept up in the saloon life of Tombstone. She was entangled in a destructive relationship with a miner, and the historical documents I used for research offered disturbing details about abuse and efforts at a forced abortion that caused severe mental side effects due to the hallucinogenic nature of the herbs used. She shot him head on the same street corner Virgil Earp was attacked in retaliation for his involvement in the gunfight at OK Corral. It felt like May’s ghost wouldn’t leave me alone until I gave her voice to tell her story.
Tombstone was a fascinating time in US history. It exemplifies the hard work, innovation, and grit so many people describe the very essence of the country being comprised of. So this is May’s story. Her struggle to find a life of her own, and the shocking scandal she became embroiled in as the only woman in Yuma’s prison at the time. She helped run a contraband cigar manufacturing operation, and her sentence was commuted after thousands of illegal cigars were found in her cell.
Books on Tombstone tell the story leading up to her imprisonment, but no one seems to know what happened to her after she was put on a train and exiled from the territory of Arizona. Whiskey and Rue sheds some light into her story (albeit a hazy light, with clouds of cigar smoke and the strong smell of booze).
And to commemorate the official launch of the novel on the 133rd anniversary of OK Corral, and my appearance at the Boston Book Festival to do a signing at the Independent Publishers of New England table, the ebook will be free on Amazon from Friday, October 24 through Sunday the 26. Please enjoy, and thank you for supporting this indie author!