Tombstone History Archives
Chronicles of Tombstone's TurbulEnt Years
Thoughts on Reading Glenn Boyer’s "The Earp Curse"
by Bruce Olds
A Post by Bruce Olds (Bucking the Tiger)
Saturday Nov 17, 2001
While in Georgia signing books at the 4th Annual Doc Days Festival (Nov. 9-11), I was asked more than once what I thought of Glenn Boyer.
I never know how properly to respond to this question, one which I have been asked on numerous occasions in the past. I don’t feel qualified to render an opinion.
I’ve read articles in True West, I’ve read the Depository, I’ve read the posts on this Board, I’ve listened to Gary Roberts and Jeff Morey and Allen Barra and others speak to the issue. I will read the upcoming S. Hall account in Old West Chronicle. But I must say, until I found the time down in Georgia, I had–having been warned off by those whose opinion I value and respect–never read a word the man had written. That needs be stated up front.
So I found a copy of The Earp Curse down there, and in-between signings, I plunged in.
I still feel unqualified to render an opinion about Glenn Boyer. For all I know, in real life, he’s a prince among men. But I can render one now about The Earp Curse. Besides being badly written–I mean REALLY badly written–I found it one of the most curious documents I have ever read. A hoax? A joke? A prank of some kind? An exercise in–well–I couldn’t quite say in just what. Pettiness of a peculiarly mean-spirited sort?
I will say that I believe it to be the gesture of a profoundly, even tragically disturbed mind. Grandiose, self-delusional, paranoiac, meglomaniacal, obsessional, and much else besides, none of it particularly attractive. An underbelly of a book. An offensive book. A wicked book. A toxic book. An agony of a book.
A SLUR of a book.
I felt dirty reading it. Dirty and guilty and embarrassed.
For myself, and for its author. I also felt very sad.
I would not presume to delve into particulars and specifics, into the meat of the many matters the book purports to address–so many are their convolutions that, try as I may, I simply cannot keep them clear in my head–but it doesn’t take a Rhodes scholar to detect about its tone and voice and approach that of something or someone gone very awry and very wrong.
One reads it through, puts it down, and asks oneself: Why oh why? Why in the world was this book written? Why does this book exist? What on earth could have motivated its author to perpetrate such a travesty? What does it contribute to the general discourse? This document of spite, of self-aggrandizement and self-pity, which its author seems clueless to understand is just that.
And yet, while appallingly outlandish, it is not a worthless book. It is not worthless because its author clearly is a figure of some significance–if latterly of less repute–in this field. And if he is to be believed–a dubious proposition at best–the owner of certain documents which, were he to do the honorable thing, the moral thing, the RIGHT thing–and MAKE THEM PUBLIC!–would indeed contribute to a deeper understanding of a subject in which all of us here are profoundly interested.
Instead, he chooses to play finders keepers.
As the book states repeatedly, he refuses to do so, to go public with his supposedly primary material, and shall ever so refuse. And this is what, finally, is so perverse and so twisted, this presumption that the author, and ONLY the author, not only OWNS history, but that the author and only the author has a RIGHT to own history, and that he therefore may do with it that which may please him, up to and including distorting and disfiguring it beyond all recognition. It is a presumption that is there in all its arrogance in every word of that ugly book, a book that attempts and so miserably fails to personalize that which is in fact anything but personal. The historical truth.
And so one cannot help but ask, just who the hell does Glenn Boyer think he is? And one can only anticipate the response: I AM GLENN BOYER!
Well, yes sir, you are. And I imagine you are owed much. Just not as much, perhaps, as you believe you are owed.
None of us like being usurped or put out to pasture. It’s unpleasant. But might I suggest that you have been neither. You have not been usurped. You have usurped yourself. You have not been put out to pasture. You have put yourself there. And now you find yourself in a pickle, in a fix, backed into a corner of your own making, and you are panicked.
Because above all, The Earp Curse is a document of panic. You are panicked because you fear that when you are gone you shall be remembered in perpetuity by me and those like me, by our children and their children, for all the wrong reasons. And at this point, that seems most likely. Indeed, at this point that seems all but assured.
Except that as long as you draw breath, there still is time.
There still is time to redeem yourself. To do the right thing. To make ALL of your records and documents, everything, all of it, all the material you profess to hoard, public.
Come forth. Do yourself the biggest favor in your life. Give it up. Every tittle and jot. Restore your reputation. Render it possible for me to say to my son and his son after him that Glenn Boyer, despite some lapses in conscience along the way–lapses we ALL have experienced in our lives, because all of us are only human–was the individual who paved the way, who left his mark, who was THE giant who bestrode this field.
But you won’t, will you? You won’t because you do not really have such documents, do you? And so, the little breath left me? Let me assure you, I won’t be holding it.