Today’s topic of interest is a steampunk novel of the Wild West by Michael D. Resnick titled The Doctor and the Kid: a Weird West Tale. In Resnick’s steampunk universe, first described in The Buntline Special, the United States ends at the Mississippi River with territories further west controlled by magically powerful medicine men, most notably Geronimo and his ally/nemesis Hook Nose. In an effort to combat this magic and expand U.S. borders the government sends inventor Thomas Alva Edison to Tombstone, Arizona to work on magic-negating inventions with fabricator Ned Buntline. Also prevalent in the story are Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers who try to keep Edison and Buntline safe.
The Doctor and the Kid picks up one year later with the infamous Doc Holliday losing his life savings in a drunken poker game, money he’d earmarked for a comfortable room in a sanatorium to ease his inevitable demise from tuberculosis. In an effort to recoup his gambling losses Holliday decides to hunt down the outlaw with the largest bounty on his head, newcomer Billy the Kid. But in order to have a chance to defeat the Kid (who has magical protection provided by Hook Nose), Holliday has to make a reluctant deal with Geronimo and to enlist the inventorly genius of Edison and Buntline.
Most of Resnick’s characters are real historical figures, although he plays around with timelines and circumstances. Still, I yearn to learn more about the history of the story’s setting. Here are some questions that come to mind and some titles that might help provide answers.
1) In Resnick’s book Doc Holliday is 32 and nearly dead from tuberculosis. Is this an accurate portrayal of his medical condition?
3) What events led Billy the Kid to a life of crime and murder? How much of what we “know” about the Kid is factual rather than apocryphal?
4) Were medicine men thought to have magical powers?
5) What are some of the important inventions that have forever changed Americans’ lifestyles?
6) Were violence and corruption part of everyday life in the Wild West?
Can’t talk, lots more to learn.