The Doctor and the Rough Rider is another Weird West Tale by Mike Resnick. It portrays the Wild West of American history with a few twists and a lot of artistic licence. Magic is a very real part of the landscape, shaping the events of the Frontier.
All the characters in this book are taken from history. The main character in this book is a dentist-turned-gunslinger, Doc Holliday. He is broken out of jail by the great Apache medicine man, Geronimo. Geronimo has seen the way the wind is blowing, and has decided that it is time for the Indians to concede defeat and allow the settlers to expand their territory to the west coast. Until now, they have been held up at the Mississippi River by a magical barrier. The barrier has been erected and maintained by twelve Apache medicine men. Geronimo has decided that their defeat is inevitable, and that the barrier should come down now before the Apache are decimated in the process.
However, there is only one white man he will deal with – a young Theodore Roosevelt. Doc Holliday is charged with bringing him to Tombstone to meet Geronimo, and with protecting him from the other medicine men who don’t share Geronimo’s ideas. They have conjured up a monster, War Bonnet, with the express purpose of killing Roosevelt.
Assisting Holliday and Roosevelt are a host of other familiar names from history including Thomas Edison and Ned Buntline. They are residing in Tombstone, charged by the American government with finding a solution to the magical barrier. Their special expertise with inventions and magical devices may just provide the advantage Holliday and Roosevelt need.
This book is a fun take on the Wild West tales of history. The characters are colourful and appealingly portrayed. The energy and enthusiasm of the young Roosevelt is vividly depicted. Doc Holliday is a rough but likeable character. Dying of consumption, he is willing to face death head on, and is an unceremonious hero.
The tone of the book, although dealing with rather dark and sinister events, manages to remain light-hearted and funny, mainly through the way the characters are portrayed.
There are also some helpful appendices outlining the “alternate history” i.e. the more conventional one, to help you sort out fact from fiction at the end of the book.
This is a light-hearted, amusing and refreshing take on the Wild West story. I recommend it.