How the West Was Spun

Once upon a time, Glenn Boyer made history with his books on Wyatt Earp. Now, critics say he twisted the truth.

"It had no other purpose but to set afoot an experiment that would expose these people conclusively for the type of hypocritical goddamn history-faking they were doing. And it worked," he says. He bristles at the suggestion that springing a hoax on the Earp field in 1966 was an inauspicious beginning for someone determined to forge a reputation as a serious researcher.

"I don't want to be taken seriously. You see, your premise isn't worth a shit. I'm not going to be forced into any mold. And my reputation as a writer simply doesn't make a good goddamn to me. How does that grab you?"

Boyer's 1989 announcement shocked the Earp fold, but it was the publication of his 1993 book Wyatt Earp's Tombstone Vendetta that threw the field into chaos.

Boyer had begun work on Vendetta soon after the 1976 publication of I Married Wyatt Earp. In 1977, he gave two very different descriptions of Vendetta's genesis.

That's the year Boyer met Bob Palmquist, an attorney and avid Earp researcher who worked with Boyer for the next several years.

"I saw Vendetta first in 1977, or a portion of it," Palmquist tells New Times. "And at that time he was saying it was a novel in the style of The Flashman Papers."

British novelist George McDonald Fraser had written The Flashman Papers, actually a series of historical novels in the style of a memoir, chronicling the adventures of a Victorian mercenary soldier. Fraser wrote them so convincingly some American reviewers didn't realize they were fiction. "Fraser had to set people straight," Palmquist says.

Boyer's version would be told from the point of view of a fictional Tombstone newspaperman, whom Boyer had named Theodore Ten Eyck.

"The idea was to write a novel in the style of a memoir as if somebody was actually telling the story, in this case Ted Ten Eyck," Palmquist says.

But in a 1977 letter to Earp researcher Robert Mullin, Boyer told a very different story about Ten Eyck. Boyer wrote that he had received a new manuscript from Earp family members, "allegedly by one Teodore [sic] Ten Eyck, a name I can find nowhere else in Earpiana." Boyer claimed that the manuscript was "clearly authentic" and that it contained "fascinating revelations (if they are true) and would make an ace movie." Boyer worried, however, that without more authentication he'd have a tough time finding a publisher.

Boyer did find a publisher for Vendetta, Talei Publishing in Hawaii, which touted the 1993 book in strong terms. For 50 years, the book's jacket reads, Boyer had been muzzled by Earp family members who didn't want certain truths made public. Now, however, in Vendetta, Boyer could finally reveal the whole truth about Tombstone. To bolster those claims, Boyer front-loaded the book with photographs of Earp descendants--some with Boyer in the frame as well--to back up Talei's claim that "This epic volume [is] by the only man with the real credentials to write about it. . . . Now, we get the facts. And some of them are shocking."

Those shocking truths would come from Theodore Ten Eyck, a New York Herald writer who had gone west and worked at the Tombstone Nugget during the town's heyday. Written in the form of a "non-fiction novel," according to the book's foreword, Boyer invented the false name Ten Eyck to protect the newsman's family, who asked that he not be identified. Whatever his real name might be, Ten Eyck claimed to have had amazing access to the principals in the famous gunfight. No one, Ten Eyck said, had known Wyatt Earp better than he had.

Some readers smelled a rat.
Jeanne Cason Laing, the woman who, years earlier, had given Boyer the Cason manuscript, was troubled by assertions that Ten Eyck was with Josephine when she died. She says Boyer tried to convince her that Ten Eyck was real and that Laing had known him. "Vendetta is full of lies. It's not like [Josephine] at all," she says.

In 1994, Jeff Morey, a researcher and writer who served as the historical consultant on the movie Tombstone, published an article exposing Ten Eyck as a fraud. In "The Curious Vendetta of Glenn G. Boyer," Morey wrote that subtle mistakes in Ten Eyck's version of events showed that he couldn't have been a contemporary observer. If he was on the scene at the time and knew Wyatt Earp so well, why did Ten Eyck sound like a sloppy, latter-day investigator?

Morey's article generated a storm of protest from Boyer backers.
"I never dreamed that there was any part [of Vendetta] that wasn't authentic history," says Jim Dullenty, who at the time edited a Western history association's newsletter. "When people started to criticize Glenn, I was on the side of those defending him because I thought they were being unfair."

Gradually, Dullenty began to have doubts. As more questions about Ten Eyck arose, Boyer gave conflicting accounts about the newsman. At one point, Boyer said he made up Ten Eyck to protect his real source, a man named Albert Behan who was the son of Tombstone's sheriff. When that was questioned--Behan would only have been about 10 years old at the time of the famous gunfight--Boyer reminded people that Vendetta was written as a "non-fiction novel," suggesting that the characters were invented.

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