'The Lasy Gunfight' - Jeff GuinnPosted: Updated:
PHOENIX -- It lasted just 30 seconds, but it's one of the most well-known gun battles of the Old West -- the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone.
Three men died in that shootout, which eventually became a symbol of the ongoing struggle between outlaws and law enforcement in a time and place where the law barely existed.
Although it's been depicted in story after story and movie after movie, what you actually know about the battle could be wrong, according to author Jeff Guinn.
He sat down with Kaley O'Kelley to explain why and talk about his new book, "The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral and How It Changed the American West."
O'Kelley described the book as fascinating.
Guinn said researching and writing it was intriguing.
"This is one of those instances where there's an iconic event that has built into mythology, and the truth -- what really happened -- is better," Guinn said. "When people learn that, I think they understand not just the gunfight better, but the whole history of this area and the West."
One misconception, according to Guinn, is that the gunfight wasn't a shootout, but actually an "arrest gone wrong." Also, it didn't happen in the O.K. Corral, but rather in a nearby empty lot on Fremont Street.
Most of Guinn's information came from private collections, including an illustration of the shootout by Wyatt Earp, himself.
"A lot of the materials ... have fallen into the hands of folks who keep it bank vaults and in boxes in their homes," Guinn explained. "We were very lucky in that some of these folks agreed for the first time to share this material with us. As a result, we're able to get a cleaner, first-hand look at a lot of the things that happened."
While Earp is generally known as the hero of the fight, he was also a wanted man, having crossed the law himself. That wasn’t uncommon at the time.
“In those times, a hustler on the make sometimes was on the right side of the law and sometimes he wasn’t,” Guinn explained. “Wyatt was a policeman. He was a deputy; he was never a top lawman himself. But it’s also true that he was arrested for horse theft and broke jail as a young man. He was a wanted man, technically, the rest of his life. He also worked as a bouncer in a floating bawdy house in Peoria, Ill. … He sure didn’t want everybody else to know [that].”
Earp also wasn’t the gunman many people think. He’d only been involved in two shootouts prior to what happened on Oct. 26, 1881 in Tombstone.
Also central to the story is Josephine. Most of the pictures that are supposed to be of her aren’t actually her. Guinn described her as a “chameleon” who was very good at getting what she wanted.
“She spent her entire life as an older person trying to turn her R-rated life into a G-rated myth,” Guinn said.
Guinn will be signing copies of his book today at 7 p.m. at Poisoned Pen Bookstore, 4014 N Goldwater Blvd. #101, Scottsdale, AZ 85251. The event will also feature a quick-draw demonstration.