Last Saturday I visited the Margaret Mitchell House Museum in Atlanta where Victoria Wilcox was hosting a lecture on the connection between Doc Holliday and Margaret Mitchell, as well as her journey from historical enthusiast to one of the leading Doc Holliday experts (and founding director of the Holliday-Dorsey-Fife House Museum). The author’s first in a three book saga, Inheritance: Southern Son: The Saga of Doc Holliday, is available now and you can enter to win a copy here (see bottom of post for details). My official review for Inheritance will be available in August through the Historical Novel Society, along with an author Q&A.
Before reading this immensely detailed novelization of the early life of John Henry “Doc” Holliday, I had only the 1993 film version of his character in mind (played by Val Kilmer), and earlier this year, a steampunk fantasy novel I reviewed for the May 2013 issue of Historical Novels Review—The Doctor and the Rough Rider by Mike Resnick—in which to form an opinion of the legend. Neither compare in substance to this novel, Inheritance, nor I heartily believe (though have not yet read) the next two installments: Gone West and The Last Decision. What I didn’t know is that Doc Holliday, John Henry Holliday, was a fascinating man before becoming a by-word of the Wild West.
From his early years as a privileged only child, John Henry grew up in Georgia in the midst of the Civil War and the Reconstruction to become a highly educated young man, family oriented and the very definition of a gentleman’s son. His only demons it seems are his worries over his mother’s illness, his desire to live up to his father’s expectations, and later his complicated relationship with his childhood sweetheart, Mattie. Through his adolescence and young adulthood John Henry makes many mistakes, and though his actions may not always seem commendable, he retains the charm and wit the casual observers appreciate, and the loyalty and courage those close to him admire.
Upon my swift reading of Inheritance I found his story and history fascinating—especially the family tree in the front of the book, linking the Holliday family to that of Margaret Mitchell. How does a Western bad-boy fit in with the most popular Southern author of the 20th Century? This is the subject of the lecture Victoria Wilcox so eloquently presented on June 1, 2013 at the Margaret Mitchell House Museum in Atlanta. I’ve seen the museum many times while driving through Atlanta, but this was my first official visit. While I didn’t go on the house tour, I did stop to read the placards along the hall that leads to the lecture room, and the entire place exudes an antebellum atmosphere–yes, even amongst the neighboring skyscrapers along Peachtree and 10th.
One of Mrs. Wilcox’s questions to the audience was, “How many of you have read Gone With the Wind?” I, for one, had to shamefacedly keep my hand down, as I have only read excerpts from an abridged version via my 10th grade Literature class, followed by a viewing of the movie starring Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable. Even die-hard historical fiction fans, and Georgian-born ones at that, have not read everything. Despite my lack of immediate knowledge, Inheritance nonetheless explains in part the connection between Doc Holliday and Margaret Mitchell in the Author’s Note (along with a Family Tree) and there is also more information on the author’s website, www.victoriawilcoxbooks.com. It seems that perhaps the most compelling story is yet to be told in the two future installments of the Southern Son saga, but you must first get to know the Southern gentleman–his roots, background and upbringing–in this wonderfully detailed and beautifully written novel.
The name Doc Holliday conjures images of the Wild West and the shootout at the OK Corral, but before he was a Western legend he was a Southern son, born in the last days of the Old South with family links to the author of “Gone with the Wind”. Now this amazing story is told for the first time in a trilogy of novels entitled “Southern Son: The Saga of Doc Holliday”. The story begins with “Inheritance”, set during the turbulent times of the American Civil War, as young John Henry Holliday welcomes home his heroic father and learns a terrible secret about his beloved mother. His only confidant is his cousin Mattie, his childhood sweetheart who shares his memories of plantation life and better days before the War. But Mattie isn’t around to comfort him when tragedy strikes and John Henry’s young hero-worship turns to bitter anger. As the Confederacy falls, John Henry becomes a troubled teenager and joins in with a gang of vigilantes trying to chase the Reconstruction Yankees out of their small Georgia town. But when a murderous plot brings threats of military prison, he vows to change his reckless ways and leaves Georgia to attend dental school in Philadelphia, hoping to come home as a respected professional man worthy of asking for his cousin Mattie’s hand. However, when he returns from two years in the North to begin dental practice in Atlanta he finds his courtship beset with challenges. There are family intrigues, lies and revelations, rivals for Mattie’s affections and a violent encounter that changes everything. “Inheritance” is the first novel in an epic tale of heroes and villains, dreams lost and found, families broken and reconciled, of sin and recompense and the redeeming power of love.
Victoria Wilcox was born on the eighth day of the month of November – the same day of the same month as Margaret Mitchell was born, and the same day and month that Doc Holliday died. And she was eight years old when she first announced to her family that she was going to be writer – no great surprise, as she had been making up songs and poems and putting on her own little theatricals for years already. She came by it all naturally, being born in California to a pioneer Hollywood film industry family. Victoria grew up loving dramatic stories of all kinds, especially those with a sense of history. As a young woman she developed a passion for the stories of royal families found in English historical fiction, and felt certain she was descended from King Arthur himself and destined to discover the historic Camelot. So she began her college career as a Medieval English History major – admittedly a narrow field in American academia – before receiving a degree in English Literature and doing graduate work in Playwriting. In her professional life she has been a teacher of English and composition on the college level and worked as a technical writer and instructional designer for industry and universities. A move to Atlanta, Georgia inspired a love of all things Southern and introduced her to a project that would fill the next few years of her life: the white-columned Greek Revival home built by the uncle of the legendary Doc Holliday in the last days before the Civil War. Although one of Georgia’s only remaining unrestored antebellum homes, the Holliday-Dorsey-Fife House was slated to be torn down and replaced by a parking lot, so Wilcox founded a non-profit organization to save it and turn it into a museum site. It’s now the centerpiece of a beautiful historic district, and Wilcox’s efforts were rewarded with a commendation from the City of Fayetteville and a cover on “Fayette Woman” magazine – and an untold tale that begged to be written. In researching the house and its former owners, she had uncovered a story almost too good to be true: the infamous Doc Holliday was kin to Gone with the Wind author Margaret Mitchell who modeled her saintly Melanie on Doc’s real-life sweetheart, his cousin Mattie Holliday. Victoria Wilcox’s writing on the history of the Old South and the Wild West has been featured in such publications as TrueWest Magazine, North Georgia Journal, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. She has lectured extensively on the same subjects and been a guest on various television programs. Drawing on her lifelong love of music and theater, she has written songs for Nashville recording artists and authored the musical Goin’ to Zion! along with numerous smaller theatrical works.
GIVEAWAY: 2 Copies available – 1 hardcover and 1 eBook version. This giveaway is open to USA, Canada and UK residents for the paper copy, and open to everyone for the eBook. Please specify which copy (or both) you are entering for in the draw. Giveaway ends June 17, 2013. Comment to enter. If you do not specify, you will automatically be entered for the eBook only.