When Jahns' book was published in 1957, it caused a bit of a stir. It was not nearly as favorable to Doc as John Myers Myers' DOC HOLLIDAY published in 1955. Both broke new ground. The Myers book followed Lake closely, but added detail for the first time about the post-Tombstone period in addition to filling in some details. Jahns was more critical of Doc--not unsympathetic but less romantic. She got into more of the records, added details about Mattie Holliday, and tapped some resources that others had not found. Both Myers and Jahns had the good fortune of corresponding with Lillian McKey, who was sort of the "keeper of the flame" for the family where Doc was concerned.
Susie McKey contacted Jahns when she began her research on Doc, but by then Pat had disposed of most of her research materials. I would love to have seen Lillian's letters. Miss Lillian had passed away by the time I developed an interest in Doc, but her sister, Alva McKey, was still around, and I met her, although I must say that I was thoroughly intimidated by her and still young enough that I really didn't know what I was doing. She was of the opinion that her sister had been too open about some things to outsiders and talked about how "careful" people who wrote about Doc "had better be" in what they said. Nonetheless, it was a memorable experience. I just wish I had been more knowledgeable and persistent. I got the impression from her that Miss Lillian had shared some things with Jahns that Miss Alva was not happy about. There are even some indications that Miss Lilian tried to soften some of the things she said in her correspondence with Jahns.
Jahns was also the first biographer to actually use notes (Myers followed the more traditional approach of referring to contemporary sources in the text itself). Jahns followed a pattern of quoting extensively from souurces, being one of the first to quote extensively from the NUGGET. I remember that at the time I was both disappointed and encouraged. I learned about Mattie Holliday and mined her endnotes for leads. I never actually corresponded with her. I didn't especially like her portrayal of him as a somewhat pitiable character who managed to survive in the West in spite of his flaws and weaknesses. But even that tempered my approach in the years that followed.
A great deal of new information has come to light in the fifty years plus since her book was published, for for a long time Myers and Jahns were the one-two punches on Doc. They laid out some trails for folks like me and Susie and Karen and Vickie and others to follow. I always try to acknowledge the debt I owe to those who came before whether I agree with them or not. In any case, they influenced me.
After I made my post, I wondered if what I had written might be misunderstood and perhaps I should have made it clearer. But, it was too late then. Also, I don't mind having my cage rattled every... more