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

Subtitled The Recollections of Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp, for 23 years the book has been taken as a firsthand narrative by Josephine herself.

But documents obtained by New Times suggest that the University of Arizona Press was aware that Josephine's voice in I Married Wyatt Earp was not her own.

In a 1972 letter to Boyer, Kit Scheifele, an associate editor at the University of Arizona Press who first handled Boyer's manuscript, chides Boyer for taking out a line in his introduction admitting that Josephine Earp's voice was a composite of several sources and not a verbatim memoir:

"In your earlier draft of the Introduction, you made clear that the manuscript you have presented is not solely the first-person writing of Mrs. Earp, and that you have written a first-person account based on her memoirs and other material as well. In your new Introduction you no longer make this clear. This is not fair to the reader--nor is it sound scholarship. I would like to ask that you seriously consider rewriting at least the first page of the Introduction so that you make clear to the reader exactly what he is reading," Scheifele writes.

Boyer ignored Scheifele's advice. To the press, however, Boyer was quite open about the nature of the book. In 1973, Boyer sent an official description of his book to the press, indicating that it was a mixture of the Cason manuscript (he doesn't mention the so-called Clum manuscript) and facts that he had been able to "fill in." Since the Cason manuscript only covers the post-Tombstone years, what Boyer apparently filled in was the entire section on the famous gunfight.

In 1973, Scheifele was replaced by Karen Thure, who edited Boyer's work through to publication.

Thure, who lives in Tucson, says she doubted the validity of Boyer's sources from the beginning.

"I think it's a shame that anyone took I Married Wyatt Earp literally," she says. "It's somewhere between history and historical fiction."

Thure says she particularly questioned the Tombstone portion of the book, and that each time she raised objections, Boyer would cite the Clum manuscript as his source. Several times, Thure claims, she demanded to see the Clum manuscript, but Boyer refused to show it to her.

"I had real qualms from the very beginning whether this was an appropriate vehicle for a university press," says Thure, who no longer works for the publishing house. "Glenn put a lot of Glenn in there. Glenn's theories appeared as Josie's."

Despite her qualms, Thure didn't object to the book's printing. She may have been influenced by then-press director Marshall Townsend, she says.

Townsend's letters to Boyer reveal that the press director repeatedly encouraged Boyer to insert "more of yourself" into Josephine's account. Thure says when she raised questions about Boyer's book, Townsend discouraged her. She says Townsend, who is no longer alive, didn't relish confronting authors about the authenticity of their work.

"Oh, my God! That astounds me," says Arizona historian Marshall Trimble. "A university press is a prestige press. To be afraid to question the veracity of an author?"

"I'm flabbergasted," says author John Boessenecker, who has several Western histories published by university presses. "That's totally contrary to the strictures of university printing. That's very disappointing that the University of Arizona would have done that. This whole thing has focused on Boyer and whether he is presenting the facts or fictitious information. But now it appears [the University of] Arizona [Press] knew there were serious problems back when it was published. That's a very disturbing thing. I've never heard of a university press doing something like this."

"I think the press was quite unprofessional in the handling of this book, from my reading of this correspondence," says New Mexico professor Paul Hutton, who was asked by New Times to examine the documents released by the university. "No wonder Boyer did what he did. He sure got some encouragement."

Boyer, who lives in rural Cochise County, reacted angrily when New Times asked him to comment on Scheifele's 1972 complaint that he wasn't being honest with readers.

"I have been provided a full copy of what the Press sent you, and you apparently either missed or ignored Marshall Townsend's remarks about looking at my documents later, since that wasn't the time, and my early remarks about wishing to remain very much in the background which later changed due to their attitude," Boyer wrote via e-mail.

In this response and others he has posted on the Internet, Boyer seems to blame the University of Arizona Press for forcing him to fictionalize Josephine's account. Meanwhile, the university's president describes the book as a "fictional format." And during a recent Internet forum, Boyer wrote that a friend's description of the book as "40 percent Josephine Earp and 60 percent Boyer" was untrue. The book is "100 percent Boyer," he says.

There now seems to be no one defending the book as the actual memoirs of Josephine Earp. But that doesn't obligate the university to alert readers of its dubious nature, Likins argues.

Current University of Arizona Press director Christine Szuter, meanwhile, told the university's student newspaper recently that the press has no plans to investigate the validity of Boyer's documents: "That's not something the press would do under any circumstances."

"That's not true at all. That's outrageous," says Paul Hutton. He warns that Szuter and Likins, in their inaction, will jeopardize the credibility of the 40-plus-year-old University of Arizona Press.

Contact Tony Ortega at his online address: tortega@newtimes.com

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