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Saturday 9 April 2016

H is for...(John) Henry Holliday

Click Here for a list of other A-Zers
John Henry Holliday

Throughout April I have invited 26 authors who had been selected as Editor's Choice by the Historical Novel Society Indie Reviews
 to help me out with the 2016 A-Z Blog Challenge...

Except to be a little different I interviewed 
their leading Character/s...

Today's Character is from :

HH : Hello! I believe you exist in Mary Fancher’s  novel – what is the title of the book, and would you like to introduce yourself - who you are, what you do etc? 
The title of Mary’s book is THE LOVE LETTER OF JOHN HENRY HOLLIDAY, and I am the one and only John Henry, more commonly known as “Doc.” I am a dentist by way of education, a gambler by necessity, a philosopher by inclination.

HH : Where and when are you? Are you a real historical person or did your author create you? 
I am a real historical person. Have you ever heard of the gunfight at the so-called O.K. Corral? How about Wyatt Earp and Arizona? Yes, you’re getting close now...

HH. In a few brief sentences: what is the novel you feature in about?
The novel is composed of my last letter to the only woman besides my mother whom I ever truly loved: my cousin, Mattie Holliday. It includes my thoughts as I write this letter and reflect on the past 36 years of my life—not always a pleasant enterprise.  

HH :  I ‘met’ my pirate, Jesamiah Acorne on a beach in Dorset, England -  how did your author meet up with you?
My author first met up with me as so many other people have met up with me, by watching a movie, in this case the movie “Tombstone” with Val Kilmer. She wanted to know how much of the movie was based on fact, so she read my biography (the only decent one out there) by Gary L. Roberts. At the end of this book, she learned how my beloved cousin Mattie Holliday, who had corresponded with me throughout my time in the West, destroyed some of my letters to her shortly before her death. Well, that did it. Mary couldn’t help but wonder why only specific letters were destroyed and what was in them that made Matty so reluctant to have anyone else ever read them. This provided the inspiration for further research, and the result was the THE LOVE LETTER OF JOHN HENRY HOLLIDAY. 

HH : Tell me about one or two of the other characters who feature with you - husband, wife, family? Who are some of the nice characters and who is the nastiest one? 
There were so many nasty characters in my life, it would be difficult to pick which one was the worst. Ike Clanton, the snivelling bore, would certainly be right up there in contention for the top spot. I think, though, that for sheer self-aggrandizement and lack of morality or conscience, I would have to select Sheriff John Behan. The person who shines through the novel—indeed, the letter is written to her—is my beloved cousin Mattie. She entered the religious order of the Sisters of Mercy less than two years after the famous gunfight. I have often wondered if this was entirely a coincidence.

HH : What is your favourite scene in the book? 
My favourite scene takes place before I ever set foot in Tombstone, Arizona. I was living in Las Vegas, New Mexico at the time, and my friend Gillie and I took a ride into the foothills just as the sun was going down. We stopped to have a smoke where we could also rest the horses. Underneath the strange blue twilight sky of early evening, with nothing but silence wrapped around us, it felt like you could ask anything, say anything, and it would be tied to nothing. When he questioned me about my leaving Georgia to come all the way out west, it took me aback; not because I’d never been asked the question before, because I had, of course I had. But this time the answer wasn’t coming easy, or maybe it was just that the easy answer wasn’t coming.

I told him I had been jilted, as simple as that. I couldn’t speak the words for what I truly meant because the words would have exploded in my heart, their substance too great a weight for me to bear. The saying of it would have breathed life into the fact, and I would never have been able to escape the pain of its presence. By saying little of what I felt, the facts remained chimera, ghosts that could be waved aside.

This was the closest I ever came to telling anyone the real reason for my leaving Georgia, and why I spoke of it then, I’ll never know. I think I just needed to remind myself that Mattie was real and that once we had been close. As I said, when you speak of something important that you’ve lost forever, when you put a name to it, it becomes too real to bear.

HH : What is your least favourite? Maybe a frightening or sad moment that your author wrote. 
The saddest part in the book is when my mother finally succumbs to her illness. Her death was a lingering affair, for consumption takes years to accomplish what more merciful diseases require only days to achieve. I was only fifteen years old at the time, and when she left this earth on that sixteenth day of September, 1866, I felt something had been broken that could never be mended. For a long time, afterwards, I lived on air.

Mary Fancher
HH : What are you most proud of about your author? 
Mary took the hard path in writing my story. She could have taken the easy way out as so many other writers have done, shaping a love story where there was none, making me into a one-dimensional character known only for his drunkenness and disease. She researched the history of the times and of me, determined to portray the facts with few inventions. My thoughts and emotions—my motivations, if you will—she gleaned from beneath the historical record where all human fears and desires reside only half-hidden.    

HH : Has your author written  other books about you? If not, about other characters?
How do you feel about your author going off with someone else! 
I was never a small minded person, so when Mary told me she was going to write a book about John Larn of Fort Griffin, Texas fame (or infamy, depending on your outlook), I was quite enthusiastic. The fact that she learned of this character while researching my book didn’t hurt. In fact, I saw John Larn when I was gambling in Fort Griffin, but I had the common sense to steer clear of him. John Larn was a most dangerous man, and his friend, John Selman, was even more so. Mary changed the names in order to fictionalize the story, and ended up with the book JOHN LEE. While we’re on the subject, I want to put in a word for Mary. Her novel, JOHN LEE, was one of the finalists for the 2014 South Carolina First Novel award. She is currently looking for a publisher for this work. It would seem a waste if she couldn’t find one... 

HH : As a character if you could travel to a time and place different to your own fictional setting  where and when would you go?
I would go to any time after the cure for tuberculosis was found. And I would return to the West.

Thank you that was really interesting!
Now where can readers of this A-Z Blog Challenge find out more about you and your author?

Links – 

Facebook :
Buy on: AMAZON.Com

Here is the company we will be keeping on this 
A-Z Blog Challenge!

A 1st  Friday - Aurelia  - Alison Morton
B 2nd Saturday  - Bloodie Bones - Lucienne Boyce
C 4th Monday - Man in the Canary Waistcoat Susan Grossey
D 5th Tuesday - Dubh-Linn  - James Nelson
F 7th Thursday - Fortune’s Fool- David Blixt
H 9th Saturday - The Love Letter of John Henry Holliday - Mary Fancher
K 13th Wednesday - Khamsin- Inge Borg
L 14th Thursday - Luck Bringer   - Nick Brown
N 16th Saturday - A Newfound Land  - Anna Belfrage
O 18th Monday - Out Of Time  - Loretta Livingstone
P 19th Tuesday  - Pirate Code  - Helen Hollick
Q 20th Wednesday - To Be A Queen – Annie Whitehead
R 21st Thursday  - The Spirit Room - Marschel Paul
U 25th Monday  - A Just And Upright Man - John Lynch
X 28th Thursday – The FlaX flower – AmandaMaclean

So call back tomorrow 
To meet the next exciting Character! 
(unless it is Sunday - in which case, I'll have something different 
but just as interesting !)


  1. Hallo Mary, what an interesting character. I read a few Westerns many years ago and it sounds like I should add yours to the TBR pile now and give the genre another go!

    1. Interesting to read something different about a familiar subject isn't it?

    2. Lucienne: My book is a very different sort of "Western." After doing a ton of research, I tried to get inside John Henry's mind--what he must have been thinking and feeling throughout his troubled life.

  2. Really great project you embarked on. How much original source material did you get your hands on? You say letters were destroyed, but some survived?
    Rab, in The Evergreen, was illiterate so I didn't have a huge amount to work with.

    1. Good question Steven - I don't think Mary's been on line yet, looking forward to her answer!

    2. Steven: For my purposes, I relied on secondary sources only, but used them judiciously. What I did do, is research the time period and the places John Henry lived in extensively: books on social mores in the South during the Civil War and afterwards during Reconstruction; books on Native Americans in Arizona; books on gambling and, of course, books on the history of Texas. Absolutely fascinating research, and provided me with material for many books to come.

    3. Forgot to answer your other question Steven. Mattie Holliday (who later became Sister Mary Melanie), lived to be in her eighties. According to Gary Roberts' excellent biography of Doc Holliday, she kept some of the letters she received from John Henry (probably the more prosaic ones) and destroyed the rest. People were very careful in those days to preserve their reputations, and Mattie's and John Henry's families had an especially challenging task in doing so because of his activities. I've read references to the letters that were kept, but I don't know if they still exist or not. They described places he went, people he met, etc. The ones that were destroyed, who knows? That's what my book is about.

    4. Excellent! I like to know I'm safe in the hands of an expert when I read.

  3. Great take on the Doc, Mary: "Have Love, will travel." Isn't research fascinating? Most readers don't realize how much of it goes into writing Historical Fiction. A shout-out for Google. (Anybody remember the hours spent at libraries and museums?)

    1. The research is the fun part. It's a shame that schools make history such a dull topic for children. The truth is, reading history can be every bit as fascinating (or more) than reading a good novel.

  4. That's a really interesting interview. I suppose most of us have heard of Doc Holliday, so this glimpse behind the scenes is fascinating.

    1. and the way we've heard it - via the movies is probably ball wrong....

    2. You have no idea how fascinating. The people who passed through the American west during the nineteenth century were in a class by themselves. The movies that have been made about this time period are tame by comparison.

  5. I'm enjoying all these posts. Well done!

    1. Thanks Miriam - wonderful of you to drop by!

  6. I adored Val Kilmer in Tombstone. Well, I adored Val Kilmer, full stop.
    The story of Mattie is truly poignant. Thank you for sharing this glimpse into Doc Holliday's personal life.

  7. For some reason, that favourite scene of Doc had me hearing Beethoven's Pathetique in my head - beautiful but melancholic. Despite having a fear of dentists, this is one "tooth-doctor" I'd like to know more about

  8. I have to look for this. I've read Mary Doria Russell's DOC but this is new to me. Thanks.

    Meet My Imaginary Friends

    1. Thanks for leaving a comment Kathleen - I'm intrigued by this different aspect of Doc H as well!

    2. I believe my book takes a unique look at Holiday's life, and certainly utilizes a very different style of writing to do so. Like I said, I did a great deal of research and tried to stay true to the main facts of his life and time. But I was also paid a great deal of attention to the style and quality of my writing.

  9. My mother was a huge Zane Grey fan and so I was raised on cowboy books and films - High Noon, The Searchers, True Grit etc. She loved 'Do not forsake me oh my darling' There was a romance to the west that she loved and she bought us children's books set in the West - I remember in particular the Children of the Oregan Trail and books by Kenneth Ulyatt - Custer's Gold so I'm really looking forward to reading this one. It sounds great.

    1. Let me know how you liked it (or not) once you read it. I have always loved good westerns, and I love reading the history of the west. Like they say, You can't make this stuff up!

  10. How fun to interview characters in books. I enjoyed this and I learned a lot about the character and the story.

    1. Thank you - mustb admit bto having great fun preparing the posts as well!

  11. What a brilliant idea to interview a book character! I really loved this one. I came to you via Kathleen Valentine's blog in the A to Z Challenge where you mentioned you were from Devon. Me too! I live near Crediton and write a monthly column for Devon Life. I haven't read any of your books - yet. I am certainly going to investigate. I love history. From Pat Keenor .

    1. Hello Pat! Can you email me - would love to meet for a coffee (I'm at Chittlehamholt, near South Molton) mail me via the contact form top right-hand column

  12. Brilliant idea to invite others to join in on the challenge at your blog and to interview their characters. Keeps a fresh perspective!


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