Doc Holliday’s Nemesis: The Story of Johnny Tyler & Tombstone’s Gamblers’ War, by Peter Brand, Meadowbank, NSW, Australia, $30, 2018 (for details on purchasing the book, visit tombstonevendetta.com)
Though Australian researcher Peter Brand’s latest book is a thorough look at the life and undistinguished career of gambler Johnny Taylor, it isn’t surprising that Doc Holliday’s name precedes his in the title. Brand, who has written often for Wild West, points out the similarities between the two men—both were educated fellows who became professional gamblers, both drank heavily, neither shied away from confrontation and both fought (with guns and knives if not fists) when provoked. They were foes in Tombstone, Arizona Territory and beyond.
The big difference between the two is in name recognition. Doc is associated with the infamous gunfight near the O.K. Corral, became a minor celebrity in his own time and remains well known by Western history buffs and fans of such Western films as Tombstone (1993). Tyler recorded one notable killing in San Francisco, but his victim, fellow gambler James Dobson, never had a fighting chance and is little remembered. While Val Kilmer’s portrayal of Holliday practically steals the show in Tombstone, the film also features a tense scene at the Oriental Saloon in which bully faro dealer Taylor (Billy Bob Thornton) meets his match in Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell). Speaking of Earp, his name pops up first in the title of another Brand biography, Wyatt Earp’s Vendetta Posse Rider: The Story of Texas Jack Vermillion. Yes, Doc and Wyatt remain two of the biggest names in Wild West circles, but most of us also enjoy getting the lowdown on Tyler, Vermillion and the like, especially when dealt with so expertly.