I Varied Wyatt Earp

One of its books has been misrepresented as a memoir, but the University of Arizona Press has no plan to correct the record

"The book always carried a cachet because it was published by the University of Arizona Press. When I first read the book, I just assumed it was authentic because it carried that cachet. They are putting their reputation on the line, and in defending the book they are going down a dangerous road."

Citing volumes of evidence--including articles by professors in academic journals that have denounced Boyer's methods as fraudulent--Hutton says he's shocked that president Likins would characterize the controversy over Boyer's books as simply a clash of opinions on Old West history.

Well-known Western author Leon Metz agrees. "This isn't about speculation. This is about fraud," Metz says.

Metz says he can't believe the university has no plans to investigate Boyer or the book. "If these charges prove to be true," he says, "the most suitable thing the Press can do is grovel. They should apologize. This is a contemptible way to write history."

Arizona historian Marshall Trimble also registered shock that Likins and the university press had dismissed any duty to review Boyer's book and methods. "There is a responsibility as a university press, a fiduciary responsibility to present history as it is or put a disclaimer in it. Anything else is a cop-out. They need to come clean," Trimble says. "It's amazing. I wonder what the other university presses would say."

Dan Ross, director of the University of Nebraska Press, says that Boyer's book isn't the first to fool a scholarly press. "There are instances that university presses have published books that have later been reviewed or attacked or found wanting in some respect. I have a lot of sympathy for them. This could happen to any of us."

"Ultimately," he says, "they'll want to stand behind their books and will take these charges seriously."

Likins, however, says he knows of no University of Arizona Press plans to study Boyer or his book.

In the meantime, documents obtained from the University of Arizona Press as well as interviews with people who actually helped produce I Married Wyatt Earp 23 years ago suggest that the publishing house may be as much to blame as Glenn Boyer for skewing Arizona's historical record.

By the time Glenn Boyer approached the University of Arizona Press in the early 1970s with his idea for a new book on Wyatt Earp, the field of Tombstone history was already glutted with books on the gunfight at the OK Corral.

Generally ignored by academics, the details of the fight--such as who shot first--are an obsession with non-academic historians. The last thing the University of Arizona Press wanted to publish, wrote then-director Marshall Townsend, was "another lengthy rehash of the gunfight." (New Times obtained prepublication correspondence between University Press officials and Boyer after submitting a formal public-records request.)

But Boyer had something unique. He had a firsthand, eyewitness account of events in Tombstone from the wife of the gunfight's most famous participant, Wyatt Earp.

At the time Boyer pitched his book, Earp's reputation as a lawman had been battered and bruised in the 40-odd years since he had died in 1929. Revisionist histories of the 1960s had made Earp and his brothers, once seen as virtuous peacemakers, out to be more outlaws than heroes. It didn't help any that records unearthed in the 1960s showed Earp had had a previously unknown second wife, Celia Ann Blaylock, whom he had abandoned in 1881. Blaylock committed suicide seven years later.

Earp took up with his third mate, Josephine, soon after leaving Blaylock. Despite the title of Boyer's book, the two never formally married, though they would remain together until his death in California in 1929. Boyer claims in the book's epilogue that Josephine then began writing her memoirs and produced two very distinct manuscripts.

The first, which Boyer says Josephine prepared with the help of former Tombstone mayor John Clum, covered her years in the rough Western town, including the gunfight. This manuscript supposedly forms the basis for the first half of I Married Wyatt Earp, and Boyer refers to it as the "Clum manuscript." Many Earp experts question whether this manuscript ever existed. They accuse Boyer of inventing his descriptions of it to hide that this half of the book is really Boyer's own version of the gunfight told in the voice of Josephine Earp. Boyer today cannot produce the Clum manuscript, and his various descriptions of it and its fate are so contradictory that they aren't credible.

Boyer based the second half of I Married Wyatt Earp--the portion that covers Wyatt and Josephine's post-Tombstone years--on an actual manuscript that survives. Josephine prepared it with the help of two of Wyatt's distant cousins. It is known today as the "Cason manuscript" after Mabel Earp Cason, one of the cousins. Mabel's daughter, Jeanne Cason Laing, gave the manuscript to Boyer in 1967.

Boyer kept tight control of the Cason manuscript until a few years ago, when copies of it began to proliferate among Earp researchers. A comparison of Boyer's text and the manuscript itself makes it clear that in portions of the book Boyer all but ignored Josephine's actual words.

Still, I Married Wyatt Earp was published as her first-person memoir. In its epilogue, Boyer says that he made the vocabulary in the two manuscripts consistent by comparing them to the speech patterns of the living Earps, whom he had befriended. In places where the historical record clearly contradicted Josephine, Boyer wrote, he left her "prejudices and miscolorings" intact and footnoted them to alert the reader. In other words, Boyer tells readers, except for cosmetic editing to produce a consistent-sounding voice, the work is essentially the thoughts and memories, warts and all, of an actual witness to Western history.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 
Phoenix Concert Tickets
Loading...