Saturday, April 15, 2017

Wyatt Earp's Biography By Stuart Lake -- Part 2

In Part One of this review, I talked about some of my source material and Wyatt Earp's biography by Stuart N. Lake entitled Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal. His work started the evolution of the Wyatt Earp myth as created by Stuart Lake.

Wyatt Earp was very ill the last few years before he died. We know this because his prostate and kidneys were giving him problems, and would be the death of him in 1929 at the age of 80. Wyatt died before his biography was published, and by Lake's own admission -- he made up most of the story to his book Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal.

While many have believed that Wyatt was a liar, and that he told Lake all sorts of tall tales to build himself up to be more than he was, I really believe that Lake put words in Earps mouth all for his own gain. Yes, I really believe the Lake used Earp to make himself famous and wealthy. No, that is not a leap of conjecture on my part because we know that Lake lied by his own admission. And frankly, that's why I refuse to use Lake's book as source material.

Here is Part Two, where we pick up the story with another writer who many say was also a fraud.

So now, we need to talk about former Air Force officer turned Wyatt Earp historian Glenn G. Boyer. A number of people write me to quote Boyer all the time. Even after being exposed, many people really see Boyer as the go-to Earp authority.

Boyer made his fame in a series of articles and a couple of books supporting an extremely favorable image of the Earps. Besides his articles, his first book I Married Wyatt Earp: The Recollections of Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp was published in 1976 by the University of Arizona Press.

Ben Traywick, author of Chronicles of Tombstone, John Henry - The Doc Holliday Story and former Tombstone Arizona's official volunteer town historian reportedly is noted as saying "Boyer was a giant in the field of Earp history, nobody could touch him."

Because of his magazine articles, Glenn G. Boyer became widely recognized as the leading authority on Wyatt Earp. Imagine that. Then in 1993, Boyer published Wyatt Earp's Tombstone Vendetta which he presented as a "nonfiction novel" based on the account of a newspaperman he identified as "Theodore Ten Eyck." He followed this with a series of Earp articles in True West Magazine entitled Wyatt Earp, Legendary American which again identified "Theodore Ten Eyck" as a source. I believe Boyer’s Wyatt Earp: Legendary American series ran in True West Magazine from August 1993 to September 1994.

Boyer's problems began when several Old West historians openly voiced their skepticism of his works, openly questioning his sources, and frankly openly questioning his honesty. In fact, one historian actually published a critique of Wyatt Earp's Tombstone Vendetta in which he suggested that Boyer's source "Theodore Ten Eyck" was not a real person at all and just someone fabricated by Boyer to lend credence to his work.

Boyer's response to his critics was surprising in that he launched personal attacks and more, all which eventually led to more historians coming forward to question the authenticity of Boyer's articles in True West Magazine, his book Wyatt Earp's Tombstone Vendetta and his first book I Married Wyatt Earp: The Recollections of Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp as well.

Casey Tefertiller, a former writer for the San Francisco Examiner newspaper, came out with his book entitled Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend in 1997, although some have it's publishing date as 1999 for some reason. His book agrees with Boyer yet takes on Boyer over material in Boyer's books.

Since I've only skimmed through Tefertiller's book, and found it to be just a book in agreement with Boyer, I wasn't interested in reading it. But even though it sounds in agreement with Boyer, it is said that Tefertiller didn't use any of Boyer's research. It is also interesting to note that by then Tefertiller and others are really questioning how legitimate Boyer’s sources really are.

As far as not being credited in Tefertiller's book, as as incredible as it sounds, Glenn G. Boyer states, "Writing about Earp and failing to mention me and my work is something like writing about Catholicism and neglecting to mention the Pope."

But the attacks took their toll, and finally Boyer admitted that most of the charges of his critics were true. Boyer was essentially exposed for being a fraud in the opinion of a number of historians. In fact, he admitted that he fabricated his books and his articles feeling that he needed to be some sort of Earp cheerleader.

And in what seemed to be his complete undoing, he shot his credibility all to Hell when he stated that because of his connection to the Earp family that he "had a license to say any darned thing I please for the purpose of protecting the reputation of the Earp Boys, which I committed myself to do. I can lie, cheat, and steal, and figuratively ambush, antagonize, poison wells, and all of the others [sic] things that go with a first class Vendetta, even a figurative one."

So the memoirs of Josie Earp that Boyer published was not her first-hand recollections, but instead all Boyer's fabrications. Glenn Boyer tried to pass them off as real but was found out and exposed. He was the Earp authority, but that is no longer the case. The reason for that is that he has been exposed and his research is today considered not reliable source material. Yes, he did the exact same thing that Stuart Lake did in regards to the store and quotes supposedly attributed to Wyatt Earp. He just made them up.

Author Lee A. Silva self-published his first Wyatt Earp biography entitled Wyatt Earp: A Biography of the Legend. Volume I: The Cowtown Years (2002) and his second book on Earp is entitled Wyatt Earp: A Biography of the Legend. Volume II, Part I: Tombstone Before the Earps (2011)

He stated that he used the letters that Wyatt and William S. Hart wrote back and forth during the late 1920s as his main source material. Frankly, I've only skimmed through his work because it seems to be a more on the par with Boyer's works which celebrate Wyatt Earp's. For me, like Boyer's work, Silva doesn't appear very impartial.
Lee Silva himself stated in an interview that Glenn Boyer and Ben Traywick are the go-to sources for the best overall pictures of Wyatt Earp. Silva also stated, "As for one single book, Casey Teffertiller’s Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend (2012) includes not only Teffertiller’s primary research." Which doesn't surprise me since Teffertiller apparently agreed with a lot of what Boyer wrote.

As for me, once I find out that a work was fabricated or that an author is using that fabricated material as his go-to source material, I have no interest in reading such fiction when I'm looking for facts. So yes, it's just my opinion, but I really disagree with Mr Silva about Glenn Boyer and Ben Traywick being the go-to sources for Wyatt Earp.

In Andrew C. Isenberg's Wyatt Earp: A Vigilante Life, he examines Earp in a way that I can appreciate in that he is not a fan nor a hater. His book appears to be an objective research.

Andrew C. Isenberg is a professor at Temple University, historian, and author. And yes, Isenberg has a lot to say about Wyatt Earp. In 2013, he published his book Wyatt Earp: A Vigilante Life. In it the author reveals that the Hollywood Earp is fiction. 

And more so, he asserts that his myth was created by none other than Earp himself. He asserts that in actuality Earp led a life of impulsive lawbreaker while shifting identities. He points out that when Earp was not wearing a badge, he was variously a thief, a brothel bouncer, a gambler, and a confidence man. 

As Mr. Isenberg states, "He donned and shucked off roles readily, whipsawing between lawman and lawbreaker, and pursued his changing ambitions recklessly, with little thought to the cost to himself, and still less thought to the cost, even the deadly cost, to others."

"While the Hollywood version is stubbornly, consistently duty-bound, in actuality Wyatt led a life of restless inconstancy, impulsive law-breaking and shifting identities," says Mr. Isenberg.

Mr. Isenberg claims Earp "spent most of his life working in brothels, saloons and gambling halls. When he was not wearing a badge he was variously a thief, brothel bouncer, professional gambler and confidence man who specialised in selling gold bricks that were nothing more than rocks painted yellow".

"In 1871 he broke out of jail in Arkansas after being arrested for horse theft," says Mr. Isenberg. "In 1872, he left Peoria, Illinois, following a string of arrests for consorting with prostitutes. In 1876, officials in Wichita, Kansas, declared him a vagrant and banished him after he assaulted a candidate for town marshal on the eve of a municipal election."

Mr. Isenberg says Wyatt Earp was a gambler, a pimp, a brothel owner, and was arrested three times for "keeping and being found in a house of ill-fame".  

According to Mr. Isenberg, Wyatt Earp escaped to a new town time and time again where he reinvented himself each time. As for his being drawn to police work, not because of an abiding belief in truth, justice and the American way, but because the early US justice system was so corrupt he saw it as a world in which he could thrive. 

Mr. Isenberg says. "It was an easy source of cash."

According to Mr. Isenberg, Wyatt Earp's greatest lie was his portrayal of himself as a dutiful lawman seeking frontier justice as a vigilante with a badge. 

"His resort to vigilantism in 1882 was not the act of a man unwaveringly committed to justice in a frontier territory where the courts were corrupt but the impulsive vengeance of a man who had long disdained authority," writes Isenberg. "[Earp] pursued his changing ambitions recklessly, with little thought to the cost to himself and still less thought to the cost, even the deadly cost, to others".

By 1896, his involvement as a referee in that fixed Heavyweight Championship prizefight brought him national notoriety. But as a crook and a scoundrel, not as the gunfighter and lawman that he saw himself. Yes, it was then that Earp's history of criminal activity caught up with him.

Earp died in 1929, and did not live to see how Hollywood embraced the myth that Stuart Lake created, that being a paragon of law and order. Mr. Isenberg argues that even though that's the case, that that is Earp's greatest confidence game of all.

For me, from what I've read, I agree with the findings of Andrew Isenberg, and with what Billy Breakenridge said about Wyatt Earp. But frankly, how I see Wyatt Earp is not important as long as I can present information about him in as unbiased a manner as I can. And believe me, that's hard to do while knowing what I do because of my research.  

Some say my labeling Wyatt Earp a pimp, a horse-thief, crook, con-artist, and yes a murderer, is uncalled for. I get told that all the time. The people that tell me this inevitably remind me that it was different times and they say that a lot of people did those things. But friends, that's not true. No, not everyone in the Old West was a pimp, a horse-thief, a crook, a con-artist, or a murderer. And while those were different times, it should be remembered that people even then had rules to live by and the vast majority did exactly that.

From what I can tell, Wyatt Earp only lived by his own rules. And yes, his rules did not include living within the law when it suited him. That's not my judgement of him, that's just a straight forward fact based on how he conducted his life.

People who write me to defend Wyatt Earp should really read more about him from various sources to get a better more well-rounded picture of his character, or his lack of character. I say read some of the authors that I mention in this article. And then you too, after reading the material that I mention here, may find that trying to separate the fan lust from the disdain to find non-biased truth and straight reporting is tough.

For all intents and purposes, it appears that there are a number of writers who were part of fabricating the myth, the fiction, the fake, we know today as Wyatt Earp. And while I understand that people have their own self-serving reasons for doing such things, from what I can tell it all started with Stuart Lake when he made up the whole story in the first place.

Just as Boyer put his opinion of what he thought took place in Tombstone into Josephine Earp's mouth in his book, Lake put his conclusions, his opinions, and his imagination into Wyatt Earp's mouth. And as with Boyer, Lake did it to give his words a great deal more impact than if Lake had said them himself.

To me, it's just my opinion, but I think Lake, like Boyer, knew darn well that he was doing wrong. But he did it anyway, and it made both he and Wyatt Earp famous. Yes, famous. Truth be damned.

Wyatt Earp's Biography By Stuart Lake -- Part 3

Tom Correa 

1 comment:

  1. It is a amazing story of Wyatt Earp . He lived the wild west dream.
    Wyatt Earp enjoy prostitutes .Wyatt and brothers own saloons /brothels.
    -Josephine Sarah "Sadie" Earp (née Marcus; 1860 – December 19, 1944) was the
    common-law wife of Wyatt Earp, a famed Old West lawman and gambler etc.
    Wyatt Earp was born in ILLINOIS as was WIld Bill Hickok in Troy Illinois.
    To think that Wyatt Earp grandparents Walter & Martha Earp settled
    in Monmouth Illinois outside of Peoria Illinois.Wyatt Dad Nicholas
    brothers and Sisters lived in Monmouth illinois Lorenzo ,Josiah ,
    James,Frances,Jonathan,Walter,Eilizabeth,Mary and Sarah.
    They lived 406 S 3rd Street Lot 4 block 39 Monmouth Illinois.
    1851 Railroad peoria pass through Monmouth il.Wyatt Sister Martha Earp
    died in Monmouth il may26,1856 and Wyatt Earp went to School with his
    cousins and friends in Monmouth il ages 8 to 11 years old.
    Robert and Melba Matson bought the house 406 S 3rd street began to ]
    publicize it Wyatt Earp birthplace March 19,1848 museum. Wyatt Earp brothers signup
    in civil war in Monmouth probarbly cause the Earp boys want to be in the
    same regiment with his cousins / friends.Wyatt Earp died at his home in a small
    apartment 4004 West 17th street los angeles california on January13,1929. age 80.
    Wyatt Earp was consultant on western movies wandered the movie sets he was
    telling John Ford about how the real west was and give him advice there was a young
    man John Wayne( aka Marion Robert Morrison) a prop & extra who enjoy listening to Wyatt Earp tell his tales of
    the wild west became his admiring fan would always make sure Wyatt had fresh cup
    of coffee .John Wayne would always give praise to wyatt Earp for his persona as a
    cowboy.If you look at picture of Wyatt Earp he looks like Kevin Costner and Joel Albert
    McCrea (November 5, 1905 – October 20, 1990) which was a good actor.
    Maybe Kevin Costner will make a Chapter 2 of Wyatt Earp Life as he did do a lot more.


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