On Writing the Earp Books

When I completed my manuscript on Wyatt Earp, I had a 500 page tome that my agent believed in. He wanted me to name it Wyatt, but I was fixated on another title, Adobe Moon. In the years that followed I saw many titles come out with one-word titles, which meant my agent was seeing a trend. But I couldn’t let go of that moon image. The entire manuscript (now a trilogy) fell under that title, Adobe Moon, because the Mexican adage about that rusty-hued orb carried the running theme of Wyatt’s life: Having to settle for what he had rather than what he wanted.

There are a number of nonfiction books on Wyatt Earp. I never intended to add another to the list. My purpose in writing was to share the fully researched story through the eyes of Wyatt, so as to understand the motivations, rationalizations, and ambitions that drove him. Though I studied him and the West that was his milieu for more than half a century, it took me four of those decades to understand him well enough to apply for my poetic license to enter his head.

As a novelist I relish the freedom of coloring a scene, providing stimuli for the reader’s senses. My trips to the places painted in these books empowered me with the details to describe them. There is a profound feeling of connection when you stand on the ground of a historical event, especially if you get your boots dirty and seeds stuck to your clothes by moving around in the area, getting involved in it if only by exploring.

Wyatt’s story has been laid out for me by some wonderful researchers: Casey Tefertiller of San Francisco, Gary Roberts of Georgia, Peter Brand of Australia, Roy Young of Oklahoma, Jeff Morey of Los Angeles, and others. All are friends of mine with whom I discuss the events of all things Earp. The nuggets they have unearthed have allowed me to reveal what I believe to be the most accurate version of Wyatt Earp’s story that has been set within the historical fiction genre.

There is another thing that I relish: connection to a reader I may never meet. I’ve had enough complimentary messages from readers to make me feel blessed inside an equation I have admired all my life. The equation is this: a writer puts down words that travel between the covers of a book to parts unknown . . . an unknown reader is moved by these words sufficient to enrich his/her life in some way. Yet they never meet. I’ve been on the receiving end of that equation many times, having my life shaped by the force of words and story by an author. To be on the giving end is a joy.

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