Mr. Peabody’s Corner of Research and Revelation: Doc Holliday’s Wild West

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?

2) What is tuberculosis and how prevalent was it in the late 19th century?

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?

And if you’re interested in historical fiction revolving around these characters, take a look at the following titles:

Can’t talk, lots more to learn.

Mr. Peabody’s Corner of Research and Revelation: Art

In An Object of Beauty, author Steve Martin introduces readers to the rarified world of art dealers and art collectors. As a person who is more likely to collect fez-wearing chimps than fine art, I am not overly conversant with art galleries, auction houses or the quirks of rich collectors. Here we find Lacey, a young woman who will use any means to get what she wants, working in the lower echelons at Sotheby’s. As she rises through the ranks we learn about a variety of artists and styles as well as the behind-the-scenes operations of art auctions. Lacey is not a likeable character, but her careless attitude towards others is more self-centered than malicious. Eventually opening her own gallery, Lacey begins to focus on living artists, and thus Martin introduces the many unusual faces of contemporary art.

The story is narrated by an acquaintance of Lacey’s and he presents her adventures as a cautionary tale. We learn that morally questionable business practices can stall a career (when the perp is caught), that the art world is at the mercy of international economics, and that major events such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks impact business and economics.

Martin’s writing style is delicate and genteel and the narrator creates just the right degree of tension to make the reader wonder what’s going to happen next.

As a result of my narrow focus on fez/chimp related art, many questions arose as I read Martin’s novel. Here are a few of those questions along with some Everett Public Library holdings that might offer answers.

 1)      What goes on in the lives of art dealers?

2)      Martin paints art collectors as a rather idiosyncratic bunch. How much truth is there in this portrayal?

3)      Collectors might see something in a piece of art that I cannot see. How do I learn to better appreciate art?

4)      After primarily selling works of dead European artists, Lacey becomes interested in living American artists. What are some of the trends and techniques in American art and who are the artists who have been successful?

5)      “What is art?” is an all-encompassing philosophical quandary. A simpler version of this question is, “Why is modern art considered to be art?” Paint splatters, found objects and installations where the viewer is part of the artwork have become commonplace means of expression. How can one appreciate such unconventional works?

Gotta go, so much more to learn!


Mr. Peabody’s Corner of Research and Revelation: Marilyn

A good book always makes me want to learn more about its contents, yet I seldom make the effort. But that will change with the advent of Mr. Peabody’s Corner of Research and Revelation. Here I will explore items related to a recent read, follow up on topics of interest and provide you, the blog reader, with the opportunity to do the same.

Today’s starting point is a historical mystery by Max Allan Collins titled Bye Bye, Baby.  In this story, PI Nathan Heller is hired by Marilyn Monroe to protect her from potential unknown threats. As the tale unfolds we learn of Monroe’s intimate relationships with both John and Robert Kennedy, JKF’s incessant womanizing and ties with the mob, and brother Robert’s infidelity and flexible morality. The author also provides plausible conspiracy theories which explain Marilyn’s death. Other characters of interest in this book include Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford and Chicago crime boss Sam Giancana.

As I read this piece of historical fiction, questions arise and I wonder how much of the writing is factual, how much is speculative, and how much is simply fabricated to make an interesting story. So here are some of my questions and some titles that might provide answers.

What is the generally accepted explanation for Marilyn Monroe’s death?

My Week with Marilyn
Marilyn Revealed:  The Ambitious Life of an American Icon

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe
My Story
The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe


 JFK is remembered as one of the greatest presidents, but what was the reality of his personal character?

The Kennedy Legacy: Jack, Bobby and Ted and a Family Dream Fulfilled
Brothers in Arms: The Kennedys, The Castros, and the Politics of Murder
The John F. Kennedy Handbook
Forty Ways to Look at JFK
Private Lives/Public Consequences: Personality and Politics in Modern America


Robert Kennedy is known for his harsh stance against organized crime. Did this public persona hide an unrepentant womanizer who was willing to compromise his ideals?

Bobby and J. Edgar: The Historic Face-Off Between the Kennedys and J.
Edgar  Hoover that Transformed America
Bobby and Jackie: A Love Story
Bringing Down the Mob: The War Against the American Mafia


How did Marilyn die? Did she have affairs with both John and Robert Kennedy? Was JFK involved with organized crime?

That’s What They Want You to Think: Conspiracies Real, Possible and Paranoid
The Kennedy Detail:  JFK’s Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence
The Encyclopedia of Conspiracies and Conspiracy Theories
Conspiracy Theories in American History: An Encyclopedia


What kind of a person was Frank Sinatra and what kind of involvement did he have with organized crime?

Sinatra in Hollywood
Sinatra: The Life
Rat Pack Confidential: Frank, Dean, Sammy, Peter, Joey & the Last Great Showbiz Party


Peter Lawford was a member of Sinatra’s rat pack, but was also JFK’s brother-in-law. What was his role in Marilyn’s death and in the Kennedy’s lives?

The Leading Men of MGM


Was Chicago crime lord Sam Giancana employed by JFK’s administration to assassinate Fidel Castro? Did Giancana and Kennedy share a mistress?

Double Deal: The Inside Story of Murder, Unbridled Corruption and the Cop Who Was a Mobster

Can’t talk anymore, gotta research.