Make that Shootout at East Half of Lot 2

June 24, 1994|By Yardena Arar | Yardena Arar,Los Angeles Daily News

Ask Lawrence Kasdan how he researched "Wyatt Earp," and he'll tell you about the shelves full of books about the lawman. But a local Earp authority said only a few books are worth bothering with.

Carl Chafin, who has spent a quarter of a century boning up on Earp, recommends Richard Erwin's "The Truth About Wyatt Earp" as "the newest and best book I know of." Mr. Chafin also recommends two books by Al Turner, "The Earps Talk" and "The OK Corral Inquest."

The original source of most Wyatt Earp lore is Stuart Lake's "Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal," a book based on his late-in-life interviews with Earp, who died in 1929 at age 80 in a rented Los Angeles bungalow.

Mr. Chafin, a retired engineer and landlord who lives in Culver City, said he has been studying Earp for 25 years and, in the process, has accumulated more than 100,000 index cards with facts.

He is transcribing, annotating and indexing a diary kept by George Whitwell Parsons, a Tombstone mining man who documented Earp's years in the Arizona community, including the famed shootout between Earp, his brothers and Doc Holliday on the one hand and the ruffian gang known as the Cowboys on the other.

Contrary to what the seminal Earp movie, "Gunfight at the OK Corral," suggests, the fight took place down the street from the corral.

"I call it 'The Shootout on the East Half of Lot 2, Block 17.' That's a technical description of where the fight took place," Mr. Chafin said.

He said Earp did have genuine historical significance.

"He helped establish a doctrine in American law [of] no duty to retreat, which says you can stand up to a criminal and even fire first if your life is in danger -- you can defend yourself without retreating to a wall, which was the doctrine in English common law," he said.

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