Two Historical Novels

Recent reading: two historical novels loosely based on the lives of real American women.

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I stumbled across Thelma Adams’ The Last Woman Standing by chance and thoroughly enjoyed it. Adams has taken what little is known of the life of Josephine Marcus Earp (and much of that is hazy and/or disputed) and the-last-woman-standingwoven a fascinating tale of her meeting and falling in love with the legendary Wyatt Earp. It’s no spoiler to say that Josie (or Sadie, as she was also known) and Wyatt remained together for nearly fifty years, until his death, for Josie tells that story herself in the first chapter.

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When Josie leaves her humble Jewish home in San Francisco to marry a man she met in Tombstone (when she spent a brief time with a traveling theater troupe), she finds her fiance unreliable, and Wyatt Earp irresistible. A great deal happens in the next year or so (1881-1882), both in Josie’s personal life and in better known history (remember the OK Corral?), and Josie relates it well.

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The book has not been marketed as a romance—it doesn’t really fit the genre pattern—but romance lovers will enjoy it. So will readers who enjoy historical detail, including some insight into Jewish family and community life in nineteenth century San Francisco and Tombstone.

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The Last Woman Standing isn’t biography (and doesn’t claim to be), but it is wonderful story telling, and lays out Josephine Marcus Earp’s life the way we all might hope it was.

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Lady Cop Makes Trouble is the sequel to Amy Stewart’s Girl Waits With Gun, relating the further adventures of Constance Kopp and her eccentric sisters, loosely based on real people and events. In this second novel, Constance is working as the jail matron while awaiting her official deputy sheriff’s badge, Norma continues lady-cop-makes-troubleher passion for messenger pigeons, and Fleurette has turned eighteen and become a blossoming performer in local theater.

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At the jail in New Jersey, Constance deals with women who may be criminals or victims (in 1915 it could be hard to tell the difference), especially one who seems remarkably happy to stay in jail, even when it appears she could not have committed the murder she’s accused of.

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When a prisoner escapes on Constance’s watch, she throws herself into the pursuit, defying Sheriff Heath’s orders and charging into New York City in search of the criminal. Along the way she stays at a hotel for women, where she meets a lawyer, a reporter, and a filing clerk, and she roams the streets of the city, where she meets much less respectable characters and makes an arrest.

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Lady Cop Makes Trouble is just as entertaining as Girl Waits With Gun. Stewart adds an author’s note at the end separating fiction from fact. I hope we’ll be seeing more of Constance Kopp, Lady Cop.

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