Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Bucking the Tiger

Bucking the Tiger

A Novel

Bruce Olds



Trade Paperback

An American Library Association Notable Book

John Henry Holliday was an Ivy League-educated dentist from a genteel Georgia family when at the age of twenty-one he was diagnosed with consumption and given six months to live. Instead, over the next fifteen years, he composed of his sojourn on America's western frontier a paean to the ways in which a man might bluff death—and attain a measure of immortality.

In Bucking the Tiger, Bruce Olds uses a pan-dimensional, genre-blurring collage of original poems, reconstituted news accounts, adulterated epigraphs, song lyrics and photographs, simulated eyewitness testimony, fictionalized memoir, invented correspondence, re-imagined folk history—less to restore the past of a figure who in his lifetime was more thoroughly mythologized than Jesse James or Billy the Kid, than to re-story it entirely.

Evoking Doc Holliday's checkered careers as a frontier dentist, itinerant saloon gambler, professional faro dealer, and occasional shootist (including his involvement in the fabled gunfight at the OK Corral), Bucking the Tiger displaces the popular image of the Latin-spouting serial killer with the reality of a human being who, exiled to an emotional and physical landscape to which he was singularly unsuited, strove to make of his self-affliction an expression of sustained, if often violent, art.

ALA Notable Books - Winner


Praise for Bucking the Tiger

“Always dazzling . . . Olds blasts his stylish prose on the page with the force and spread of a sawed-off shotgun. Imagine a younger Milan Kundera saddling his horse of philosophical underpinnings and galloping through the Wild West with several bottles of John Barth's Linguistic Glee Tonic stashed in his saddlebags. It makes for a bucking pastiche of a ride.” —Chicago Tribune

“Olds writes like a turned-on angel. He dazzles us with word wizardry as survey as Doc Holliday dazzled the Wild West with a deck of cards and a six-gun.” —The Washington Post Book World

“A strikingly written, often insightful re-creation of the amusing, deadly, fatalistic Holliday.” —Dallas Morning Star

“Dazzling and exhilarating playful and witty . . . Bucking the Tiger [is] a novel which lights a torch for American historical fiction.” —Los Angeles Times

“Remarkable . . . full of explosive pyrotechnic wordplay and ideas, wherein one knows oneself to be in the presence of true brilliance . . . an amazing book by a writer of both stylistic dazzle and intellectual substance.” —The New York Times

“A work of artistic brio . . . incontrovertibly brilliant . . . To read [it] is to partake of that rare pleasure of inhabiting a writer's mind on fire.” —The Miami Herald

“Epic poetry disguised as a fearlessly inventive novel . . . a leap of genius into quantum linguistics. Olds goes forth in paragraphs spitting sparks and fireflies, to whisper up a beguiling new sound from the moldy rag and bone shop of America.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Kaleidoscopic . . . The rich prose rewards. Working territory already mined by a thousand old westerns, Olds finds startlingly fresh images.” —The New Times Book Review

“A complex, exhaustive portrait of Holliday . . . erudite and ambitious. The innovative elements that separate Bucking the Tiger from its predecessors make for impressive pyrotechnics. Touching, funny, and original. Old's writing crackles.” —The Star Ledger (Newark)

“Holliday's revealed, layer by layer . . . humanizing [a] notorious outlaw. Each moment . . . of Doc Holliday's life is mediated and aestheticized. The result is less a deconstruction of Holliday's romantic legend than a re-inscription of it. Olds drops all restraint, packing his book with images and metaphors . . . By sheer bravura, Olds is trying to write himself into an epiphany.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Profound, poetic, disturbing, exhilarating, demanding, and rewarding, this is 'Literature' on a high celestial level . . . A shimmering web of perfect words, caressing, exploring, and defining Holliday's life as an affirmative history of decay . . . A must read for anyone who will ever die.” —True West magazine

“A tale unlike any other . . . Beautifully . . . spun of laughter, love, hatred, melancholy, murder, and lust. Tiger is a poetic dance.” —Old West Chronicle

“With this stunning incantation on the life of Doc Holliday, Olds solidifies the reputation he established with his debut about John Brown . . . By nature a poet with an extraordinary sensitivity to the sounds of words . . . Olds carries the motifs of life and fate, gambling and luck straight to the center of the American fascination with fortune and individual enterprise . . . unprecedented in its acuity and grace . . . He wields the most lyrically lucid prose and poetically charged sensibility this country's literature has known in a very long while. Startling, vivid, unforgettable: a novel that compels the reading imagination.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“Startling new . . . A combined western, biography, and loose anthology of meditations on death . . . As he did with John Brown . . . Olds manages to pluck a real man out of the distortions of time and Hollywood myth.” —Booklist

“Doc Holliday . . . may have at last found his poet. A compelling literary jumble of earthy monologue and ethereal narrative . . . ambitious and rewarding.” —Library Journal (starred)

“An iconoclastic fictional account that will . . . move readers to a closer understanding of one of the West's most sensational figures.” —Publishers Weekly

“Blends legend and truth into an outstanding portrait of Holliday.” —New York Daily News

“An Olds novel not only reproduces a moment in history: It re-creates the process by which that moment became history. The result is a revaluation of the code of sanctified violence that is at the heart of the Western, and of American myth. By making the defense of his human dignity the core of Doc's seemingly perverse psychology, Olds transforms a historical footnote and movie hero's sidekick into a figure of tragic and mythic import. Bucking the Tiger is . . . a fascinating exploration of the psychology and patterns of belief behind a particular kind of American mythic hero. It is also moving, funny, and smart.” —Raleigh News & Observer

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Bruce Olds

Bruce Olds is the author of Raising Holy Hell which was named Novel of the Year by the Notable Books Council of the American Library Association. He lives in New Jersey.

Bruce Olds

Bruce Olds

From the Publisher


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