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Boyer vs. Tefertiller: Penslingers Face off over Wyatt Earp

By sierra adare 
Originally published by Wild West magazine. Published Online: August 10, 2009 
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Boyer: 'Writing about Earp and failing to mention me and my work is something like writing about Catholicism and neglecting to mention the Pope'

The interviews that follow originally appeared in Wild West, October 1998. Glenn Boyer's body of work includes Suppressed Murder of Wyatt Earp, I Married Wyatt Earp and Wyatt Earp's Tombstone Vendetta. Casey Tefertiller's Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend came out in 1997. These books are all sold as nonfiction; however, each author tells a very different story of Earp's life. In his book's bibliography, Tefertiller does not list any of Boyer's books. Tefertiller and others have questioned Boyer's sources. "Writing about Earp and failing to mention me and my work is something like writing about Catholicism and neglecting to mention the Pope," Boyer has said. In separate interviews with Wild West, each author was given the opportunity to present his side of the controversy. The word "side" troubled Boyer. "The issue is supposed to be the truth," he said. "The truth is one side all by itself and there are no others." Tefertiller said: "I hope Western readers will recognize the importance of this problem and why it is a concern to us all. If we do not demand the truth about history in nonfiction books, there is no reason for studying history at all." The first interview is with Tefertiller, a longtime newspaperman who spent three years writing Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend.

What prompted your interest in Earp?
Tefertiller: When I was growing up, my grandfather, who was a working cowboy in California, told me stories he had heard from old Arizona ranch hands who drifted West to work on California ranches about this evil stage robber and criminal mastermind named Wyatt Earp. Then I saw Hugh O'Brian on TV [The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp] and movies about the greatest hero who ever lived—Wyatt Earp. Since my childhood days I have been fascinated by the dichotomy of these divergent legacies. I was interested in finding the truth rather than the various fictions that had been promulgated through the years…and I attempted to approach everything without bias.

You were able to provide quite a bit of new material about Earp's life.
Tefertiller: For many years most researchers had believed that just about everything that could be found had already been found. I was very fortunate, first, that I received a great deal of help from many outstanding researchers who contributed material and, second, that I investigated many areas that had not been mined for material. I pulled a great deal out of the Arizona archives, and I found that much of the Tombstone-related material wound up in repositories in California. There were nine San Francisco newspapers, and Tombstone was treated almost as a suburb with many, many reports on Arizona events. It was a combination of hard work and good fortune by which I was able to discover so much new material.

What do you feel is the most significant piece of new information you discovered?
Tefertiller: It is hard to identify just one piece that is the most significant. There is something new on almost every page of Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend. There was probably two things that surprised me most. The first was finding some confirmation that Wyatt Earp actually disarmed Ben Thompson, which had long been considered a historical fable. The second item actually appeared in a small book [by Ben Traywick] between the time I found it and the time Life Behind the Legend was published, so I can't claim first publication. It is Wyatt Earp's resignation, when he resigned with one of the most moving statements ever made by a western lawman. I can remember sitting in a dark room at the Bancroft Library, reading it and having my jaw fall open. It was such a shocking discovery.

You've called Stuart Lake's biography, Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal, "an adoration" and Ed Bartholomew's self-published two-volume work an "attempt to debunk the whole Earp legend." Why have Earp chroniclers pursued private agendas that promote their own point of view rather than exploring the truth of Earp's life?
Tefertiller: I think for different reasons. Lake met Wyatt Earp and was very impressed. Lake's book is very much the Earp side of the story, without presenting the opposing viewpoint or the complexities that provide richness. One of my biggest surprises was that the Lake book was far more accurate than most people had ever believed. Lake painted Earp as a shining knight. Many of the old Arizona stories portrayed Earp as a criminal mastermind and a villain. Frank Waters, Ed Bartholomew and the other debunkers wrote from the prospective of the Arizona old-timers. What they gave was a view of Earp that had been passed down by his enemies. Both sides approach the story with an agenda to tell what they perceived as the truth. Because they entered with an agenda, neither side got it quite right.

Some critics have reprimanded you for not referring to the work of Glenn Boyer, but you found flaws in his research.
Tefertiller: This was one of the great disappointments in researching my book. I had spoken to Boyer on the phone before I had any plan of writing the book, and we had a couple of very cordial conversations. I had admired his many magazine stories and I Married Wyatt Earp, and I told him so. He then told me about his new book Wyatt Earp's Tombstone Vendetta and told me that it came from the memoirs of an Eastern journalist who came west and worked at the Tombstone Nugget. I planned to review the book for the Examiner and began reading eagerly. When I read it, it was such a transparent fraud that I was absolutely stunned. Mr. Boyer had told me that it was written by a top-level journalist, but this Ten Eyck character knew nothing about frontier journalism. At that point I knew I had been lied to, and further, I recognized that anything Mr. Boyer wrote must be subjected to the highest level of scrutiny. When his other writings were scrutinized, many simply fell apart. With further review it became obvious that the Tombstone section of I Married Wyatt Earp could not be accurate. When I received a copy of the [writer Mabel Earp] Cason manuscript, I realized that Boyer had taken many liberties even with the material from that manuscript. It was a great disappointment to realize that Glenn Boyer's material was not honest, accurate and truthful.

Boyer says that much of his information comes from the Earp family and was told to him through the years. Do you have any reason to question that?
Tefertiller: Boyer has changed his story so often that what he claims one week is different from what he claims the following week. Boyer's first documented interest in the Earps came in a 1955 letter he wrote to Stuart Lake, asking how he could locate family members. In this letter, he indicated no knowledge of having met any Earp relatives, which certainly would have provided him with more credibility in making a contact with Lake. When Boyer began writing about the Earps, he wrote that he had met the Miller family [Estelle Miller was Wyatt Earp's niece] in the mid-1960s and that they knew very little of Wyatt's adventures. Thirty years later, he claims that his association with the Millers dates back to the 1940s, that they held a remarkable reservoir of knowledge about the Earps which they wanted to keep secret, and that he had lied for years about this to protect the Millers from interlopers, even though they were dead. Were this the case, Boyer could have left them out completely rather than lie about them. As the years passed and the people died who could refute his claims, he made more and more outlandish claims about his connections to the Earps and usually just cited "the family" without identifying specific sources. We all know that families do not speak with one voice. The big problem is that in order to believe Boyer now, you must believe that he lied for decades. Is he a liar now, or was he a liar then? Either way, he has played fast and loose with the truth, and nothing he says can be accepted at face value. He says he should be believed just because he says so. The problem is he has a very poor record with the truth.

Please explain.
Tefertiller: From 1976 to 1997 he said the Tombstone section of I Married Wyatt Earp was based on one manuscript written by John Clum with input from Josephine Earp. Then that all changed to a whole bunch of different manuscripts written by a parade of fiction writers. From 1977 to 1997, he claimed Ten Eyck was a real person who left a real memoir, then even threatened lawsuits against Jack Burrows and Jeff Morey when they questioned the authenticity of the Ten Eyck memoir. Now Boyer acknowledges that it is false and says it should have been obvious that Ten Eyck was a "literary device." He has constantly changed the stories about his source material, just as he has changed stories about his family connections. When somebody continually changes his claims, it becomes extremely difficult to determined what is the truth, and whether there is much truth to his stories at all.

What problems did this create for you while researching your book?
Tefertiller: It meant that I had to sort through everything Boyer had done and try to ignore all of his work unless it could be substantiated by other sources. I used almost exclusively primary sources in writing Life Behind the Legend. And I had to disregard everything Boyer had said.

Now more and more people are questioning Boyer's work.
Tefertiller: One of the Western publications recently did a story on the great questionability of Boyer's work. I believe that as more and more serious students of the American frontier gain an understanding of Boyer's transgressions, the situation will become obvious to all. It is important that people writing on historical subjects not blindly follow what has come before. In that regard Glenn Boyer has taught historians a value lesson.

Boyer says your Earp biography "only muddies the waters" due to "gross errors" on the first page of your book. How do you account for not mentioning Wyatt's sisters, Louisa's whereabouts at the time her husband was murdered and the discrepancy in the travel date?
Tefertiller: This was not a genealogy. It was not my intent to document every movement of the Earp family. In writing a book of this sort you can't mention every element of Earp's life. In retrospect, I probably should have included a few more movements, but that would have meant cutting other material from the book, due to space constraints. You have to choose what you believe were the most significant influences on his life. His sisters were not involved in any gun fights. They didn't walk down the streets of Tombstone with him, and they were not part of the legend of the fighting Earps. As such, I considered this material that was not necessary to place in the book. As for Louisa, in a letter to her sister Agnes in 1886, she said she was in California at the time her husband was killed. In addition, Mrs. Morgan Earp doesn't show up in the newspapers at the time of Morgan's death. During this time, the movement of the other Earp wives was closely documented by the newspapers—because everything an Earp did during that period was watched closely, whether it was a Mr. or Mrs. Earp. Louisa said she wasn't there, that she was back in California, and because she is not mentioning in the Tombstone newspapers, it seems quite clear that she had indeed returned to the Earp family home in San Bernardino County, California. The 1863 date on page three of chapter one was a typo. The first endnote shows that the actual date was 1864. It was simply a missed key stroke. I wish it hadn't happened. It will be corrected in later additions.

Boyer claims that you have said everything written about Wyatt Earp or Tombstone since 1976 is untrue. Did you say this, and if so, why?
Tefertiller: To my knowledge all the material written about Wyatt Earp or Tombstone since 1976 has relied heavily on Boyer's I Married Wyatt Earp. While researching material for Life Behind the Legend, it became clear that I Married Wyatt Earp was not reliable source material. It was resplendent with historical errors, inaccuracies and inconsistencies. It was also apparent that a responsible writer could not accept the Tombstone section as being actual accounts presented by Josephine Earp. This was a great disappointment to me personally. I would have never expected that any writer would present what is apparently a false memoir. As such, Boyer's I Married Wyatt Earp has had a huge impact on every writer since it appeared. Because of that, everything that has been written using Boyer's work as source material has been tainted by his use of blended voices, literary devices, literary hoaxes and his various other methods which cannot be considered history. This is very sad for all concerned. Boyer's material is not dependable, nor is it authentic historical writing. I did not use other novelist for source material such as Loren Estleman or Will Henry. I also didn't use the writing of Frank Waters as source material, for I found that undependable, as well. The reason I did not use Boyer's material is simply that it is inaccurate….Boyer may have some legitimate historical material; however, because he has not presented it as history, we are unable to tell what is real from what is his imagination. Any responsible writer has no choice but to refuse to accept Boyer's material unless it can be confirmed by other documentation.

Any parting comments?
Tefertiller: I think that the best thing that can be said about Boyer is to quote Jane Candia Coleman Boyer, who wrote in a letter to the Christian Science Monitor, "Someone after all, must be responsible for the protection of our historical past, if not authors, then those who read them." The sad part is Glenn Boyer has not lived up to any of this. There is a great deal of hypocrisy that Boyer has tried to make himself sound like a protector of ethics, while at the same time he is fabricating many parts of frontier history. It is indeed the responsibility of authors to protect our historical past. That's why this is important. Anyone who writes about the West in books or for Wild West must be aware that Glenn Boyer's material cannot be trusted as being legitimate history.

Following is the interview with Glenn Boyer:

When did you first become interested in Wyatt Earp?
Boyer: I can answer that question. It was Nov. 14, 1937. It was an article in the Chicago Tribune called "Tombstone: The Town To Tough to Die." So I trotted down to the library to see if they had anything on Earp. Bear in mind, I was going on 14 then and had already learned to lean heavily on the library if you wanted to learn anything. So I looked around for anything on Earp and found Stuart Lake's book, Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal, which is the great, glowing, slightly fictionalized (but not grossly) story of Wyatt Earp.

While researching Wyatt's life, what was the most significant or surprising information you uncovered?
Boyer: I can answer that question with a quotation from somebody else. Estelle Miller was his sister's daughter. She was talking to me one day, and bear in mind, she was an old country girl. She said, "My Uncle Wyatt wasn't like them writers say," and that's what I discovered. I wouldn't say that it was a great blinding flash of insight, but it began to dawn on my that he wasn't like Wyatt Earp as Stuart Lake had said. He was kind of a rough, tough, profane, rooting-tooting frontiersman. Stuart Lake more or less portrayed him as a boy scout. As a result of that, I refer to him as St. Wyatt the Just. [Lake's view] has a great following….I call them the frontier martyr base. I've more or less knocked their view of Wyatt Earp into a cocked hat.

So what did you find in your research that knocked the Lake supporters off their pedestal?
Boyer: You can't do that all at once. It's a general realization. In Stuart Lake's book, he has Wyatt Earp at the age of 16 going West with a wagon train with his parents and observing his first gunfight in Omaha. I thoroughly checked out Omaha through the newspapers, death records, coroners' hearings, records of burial, and there was no shootout in Omaha when the Earps went through there—and I know the exact date they went through there from the diary of a woman, Rousseau, who was with the wagon train. Then the Earps proceeded west, and Lake has them laying over at Fort Bridger for a couple of weeks, during which Wyatt sees Jim Bridger. The fact of the matter was that Jim Bridger, at that time, was up on the Bozeman Trail, and they stopped just one day according to the Rousseau diary. So this is the kind of fictionalizing that Lake was doing….It just gradually dawns on you the frontier marshal's glowing tales have been grossly pumped up. As I'm talking to his family, of course, I recognize this was because Thompson was a good old boy. I mean, he wasn't any of those glorious and grand things you hear about him. Don't ever think he wasn't dangerous though.

You have mentioned meeting Josephine Earp. How did this come about?
Boyer: Josie was an old lady at the time. I went to Santa Anna as an aviation cadet, and my family had known the Millers (Bill Miller being Wyatt's nephew by marriage). I think they probably deliberately had Josephine over there a couple of times when they knew I was coming. All I can say about her is that she looked very young for being past 80, and she was very noncommittal. I recall her sometimes looking at me speculatively, though. I often wondered if she knew I was the person who was going to publish events of her life eventually. I didn't have sense enough or know how to approach somebody like that to get them to talk in that time.

How old were you went you met her?
Boyer: I was 19. This was 1943. She only had a year left to live at that time.

Why do you suppose she did not want to talk about Wyatt?
Boyer: I have no idea. I think perhaps by then she had got defensive about him. I guess she got closemouthed because she didn't want to be quoted. On the other hand, Josie liked to bask in reflected glory, I think. After Stuart Lake made Wyatt reasonably famous, Josie had it stenciled on her suitcases "Mrs. Wyatt Earp," and, as she got on the train one day, the family told me somebody asked her if she was the wife of "two-gun Wyatt," and Josie bristled up and said, "My husband was not a gunman." To hell he wasn't! We're talking about a very contrary and deceptive and many-faceted woman here and a complicated personality.

Did Josephine say anything about her life with Wyatt that you can recall?
Boyer: At the time I was there in her presence? Not a word. You're asking me to remember something that happened 54 years ago. I've got a pretty good memory, but I think if she said anything significant, I would have remembered it.

You wrote the pamphlet "An Illustrated Life of Doc Holliday" in 1966 and recently added an introduction in which you called the whole pamphlet a "hoax." Why create a hoax?
Boyer: The thing was not seriously conceived at all. They [the people it was written for] just wanted a thing for a melodrama. If I'd have written them a complete slapstick burlesque, they would have been just as happy probably. But I suppose my future bent to write later on of things as they were, and the fact that I knew a bit about the Earps and Doc Holliday led me down the path of doing it the way I did. But I wasn't thinking in terms of there being interest. I wanted to do something else in that book. I was tired of this crap that people like Pat Jahns (The Frontier World of Doc Holliday) and John Myers (Doc Holliday) put out. I bet in both of those books you won't find 2,000 authentic words of anything that Doc Holliday said or did, and yet they are supposed to be biographies….I was just spoofing. Hell, I didn't give a damn. I had never written anything. I had no notion that I would ever write anything again, and that's the significant thing that people overlook. I still spoof, but not about Earp history.

In the introduction you state that you "kept the gag going," and you did for over 20 years. Why keep it up for so long?
Boyer: I didn't keep it going for over 20 years. Who told you this? I advertised it ["An Illustrated Life of Doc Holliday"] in 1971, in the Tombstone Epitaph, as a spoof. That's five years.

What kind of reaction did you get to your advertisement?
Boyer: A lot of people recognized what I was doing and thought that it was funny as hell. But most of the people that characterize themselves as experts on the Earps—a principle characteristic is that they totally lack sense of humor—now, they don't appreciate it at all. And, of course, they try to use that as a means as tear down my reputation, which I don't give a damn about. My reputation was a byproduct. It wasn't my intent at all. I told some guy over at the Tombstone Tumbleweed not too long ago that I'm a novelist not a historian. Boy, did they ever leap on that. Some guy said, "Boyer confesses that everything he's ever written is not true." And that is quite a leap of logic, isn't it? Let's put it this way, being a great practical joker, and you being acquainted with the West, and bearing in mind that I have had published seven novels, let's suppose that I had said that I'm a historian not a novelist. And if somebody was trying to trip me up, somebody would have said, "Well how about those seven novels you wrote?" But I said, "I'm a novelist, not a historian," so how about the four or five histories I've written. Nobody said that.

How has this hoax affected the credibility of your more serious work on the Earp saga?
Boyer: I don't give a damn about the credibility about the more serious work, let's put it that way. Therefore, I have no idea how detracted the credibility…. Anybody that can't tell, if they have read much of my serious work, that it's bona fide is a candidate for mental examination. I've told the truth as I've seen it. And let me tell you something else, Mark Twain was considered a humorist. So Huckleberry Finn was considered humor, although it's great social commentary. But that doesn't prevent him from writing Joan of Arc, does it? Or forbid him. He is the determiner of what he is going to write. And to show you how views change with passage of time and the part of the public, I have seen an interview where somebody saw William Dean Howell and Mark Twain walking somewhere together, and they said, "Oh, this is an unusual occasion. Here is America's greatest novelist and America's greatest humorist walking together." I dare say you don't even know who William Dean Howell is. And the fact of the matter was that if you believe Earnest Hemingway and me, Mark Twain was probably America's greatest novelist ever. So I write for posterity. I'm not conscious about having engaged with anybody in the controversy about anything really. They think so.

In the foreword to your 1993 book Wyatt Earp's Tombstone Vendetta, you wrote that it was based on the unpublished manuscript of a Tombstone newspaperman.
Boyer: No, it's based on a lot of manuscripts, as is everything I do. I think I made it perfectly clear that is a literary device. And, of course, people tend to ignore the fact that I've over and over said that if there is a Ten Eyck—I am Ten Eyck. I'm the literary artist that created the composite figure that I chose to call Ten Eyck. And his son, as well.

So there was no actual newspaperman?
Boyer: There was a newspaperman. There were a lot of people. But there was no newspaperman by the name of Ted Ten Eyck. Nor did he work for Tombstone's Nugget.

But in the book you actually said that it was a newspaperman who worked for the Nugget.
Boyer: In the book I actually said so broadly, or hinted so broadly, that it was a literary device. Anybody with an iota of sense recognized instantly that that was exactly what it was and that this man was a composite. That's what I intended.

What exactly do you mean when you say the Ten Eyck papers were a literary device?
Boyer: The manner in which I wrote the book with the literary device to create a composite character to avoid the approach of Greek drama, which is deadly dull, of having one character come forward and claim center stage and another one and another. Have you read [Wyatt Earp's Tombstone] Vendetta? Many people think it's the most exciting thing of the whole Earp affair that they have ever read. And that was my intention. And whatever I've said about creating a literary device or a character called Ten Eyck as a composite, I've also emphasized that I've said that I was telling everything I knew, no matter where I learned it. And there were two or three or four manuscripts involved that could be called the Ten Eyck manuscript, although they were not necessarily used back then.

Who wrote these manuscripts?
Boyer: That's none of your business. I've repeatedly said that Mrs. Earp attempted unsuccessfully to do her story with other professional writers. You know many times that I've mentioned who the professional writers were. For example, Walt Coburn was a Western writer, and Wilson Mizner was a screenwriter and a playwright, and Rex Beach was with the Earps in Alaska. They rented his cabin, as a matter of fact. And I caused somebody to laugh heartily when I said she [Josephine] was approached by Dashiell Hammett. Do you know who he was? The guy famous for having written The Maltese Falcon. He actually got it into his pea brain that he wanted to set a mystery in Old Tombstone. I don't think it got off the ground. And another one that she approached herself was Ben Hecht, a very famous script writer, a very brilliant man, and probably she approached him because he also was Jewish. But he didn't approach her necessarily. But from all this there is a tremendous accumulation of paper.

In a review of Tefertiller's book, you wrote that "it only muddies the waters," and on your Web page you called it a "rehash." If it's a rehash, how does it muddy the waters of Wyatt's life?
Boyer: That's a hard question to answer in a way. Let me think over that one. I know what I had in mind at the time I said it. For example, Tefertiller has Morgan Earp's common-law wife Louisa—when she hears of Morgan being killed—falling to the floor in a faint at where his parents lived in Colton [California]. She was in Tombstone at the time. She came to his side before he died. This is not a good work. On the first page of chapter one of Tefertiller's book he made three gross errors. He said the Earps came to Pella, Iowa, and never left. They went back to Monmouth, Illinois, for four years. He mentions the children that were born there and forgets to mention any of the girls, especially Adelia, whom I consider my grandmother. And then Tefertiller has the Earps leaving for the trip across the Plains in 1863 instead of 1864. I mean, this is muddying the waters in my opinion.

Some people might say that Ten Eyck has muddied the waters.
Boyer: It depends on which way you want to look at this. If you want to look at this as a form of writing history, but a very interesting period style of writing history, believe that. If you're one of these people over the years I've kicked in the ass for a good and sufficient reason, you're going to believe something else. And the reason I've kicked them in the butt, every time, is that I've set out every time to keep the picture straight. Frankly, I wish I'd never heard of the Earps. I wish I'd never set out to set the picture straight. And then I've said before if the Earps who I was most intimate with knew how much trouble I was having, they'd tell me to forget it. But in the course of this I've come by a valuable commercial property, and I've not said the last word, and I have to save my soul yet.

Why didn't you mention in any of you publications prior to 1994 that you actually met Josephine Earp?
Boyer: I was asked not to. I'm not sure exactly why I was asked not to, to tell you the truth. But the people who put that restraint on me were then dead.

So it was family members?
Boyer: I don't know whether they thought if I had said that I had met Josephine, people would assume I was speaking with authority or what. And I can't imagine why any more than somebody else can.

Did you ever ask the family members why?
Boyer: Kind of. You've got to realize that my relationship with a lot of these people was just like family. I had no idea where we were going, you know. And if you push too hard in a situation like this, you'll shut off your sources.

In I Married Wyatt Earp, which was first published in 1976, you wrote that Josephine Earp had worked directly with George Parsons and John Clum on an unpublished manuscript of the Tombstone section; then in your pamphlet, "Trailing an American Myth," published in 1997, you wrote that this manuscript was actually composed by several authors and that it formed "the basis of the Tombstone years in I Married Wyatt Earp" and "the Ten Eyck Papers in Wyatt Earp's Tombstone Vendetta." Then in the pamphlet "Who Killed John Ringo?" also published in 1997, you wrote that fiction writers Dashiell Hammett, Wilson Mizner, Rex Beach and Walt Coburn had written Josephine's Tombstone years' manuscript. Is this all the same manuscript?
Boyer: These are many, many sheets of paper. Some of them are a manuscript. Some are only a mishmash, as a matter of fact. But these are the people who are involved in this. The earlier ones of those guys all lean heavily on Clum and Parsons for insights, which is one of the reasons they got in trouble with Josephine Earp. They wanted to tell the truth after they began to dig into this thing. This is a broad way when I say I refer to a Clum manuscript, for example. It is a broad way of referring to something when really this is nobody's business in a way.

But if you are using this as being the source…?
Boyer: It's a name, you know.

So Josephine got mad at Parsons and Clum?
Boyer: I'm sure she got mad at them, but she got mad at all the people that were working with her.

Mad in what way?
Boyer:
Because they wanted to tell the truth and she didn't. She did the same thing with Mabel [Earp Cason] and Vinnolia [Earp Ackerman].

Considering your Doc Holliday hoax and the red herrings you "planted in Suppressed Murder of Wyatt Earp (which you say was at the Millers' insistence), the evolving authorship of the Ten Eyck papers, and inaccuracies such as placing the Earps in Denver at the time they were in Alaska….
Boyer: That's not the final word on that subject, incidentally. The Earps might have been in Alaska at the time I thought. But why not explain something like that with a misrecollection of Josephine rather than anything I did. And if you would like some contradictions or some historical precedence for contradiction, let's put it this way, I don't blame people for having justifiable suspicions about why I did these things. I do blame them for not checking up and discovering that what I've said, 99 percent of the time, is absolutely true. If I were to say to you—bear in mind, I'm emphasizing if I were to say to you—I made up every word I have ever written, what would I then have to explain? Let's not get all wrapped up in this minutia of "Glenn said this then" and "Glenn said something else somewhere else."…Supposing Wyatt and Josephine weren't in Denver in 1900. Supposing that Josephine remembered it incorrectly, which I think is the case. Supposing Wyatt didn't come back and kill John Boyett [the man who killed Warren Earp] in 1900. Supposing it was some other year. I don't know. But the point is, if I were to say I made both of these up—and, again, we're talking about an assumption here, I'm not saying this—would that invalidate everything I ever wrote? That's what you're saying in the case of the Illustrated Life of Doc Holliday, which I wrote without having known I was going to ever write another thing. And it did have a serious purpose. The serious purpose was to prove that the people writing at that time copied liberally from each other without checking facts for accuracy. I think you'll read that in my foreword. I set afoot a historical experiment, not knowing I ever intended to be anything that somebody could characterize as a historian. When I told [Bob] Candland [reporter for the Tombstone Tumbleweed] I'm not a historian, I'm a novelist, you've got to read between the lines, which implies that I'm not a historian by intent. I don't want to be a historian, but the definition of a historian is someone who wrote history. And people have characterized what I've written as history. I've never in my whole life said I was a historian, but I have in my whole life have said I wasn't a historian. But, unfortunately, I am a historian.

With regard to the Ten Eyck papers and other sources that you've put together, are you planning to publish them intact as they were written so that people will get to see these sources?
Boyer: I would if that hadn't been stolen from me.

They were stolen?
Boyer: A lot of them. What I have is undoubtedly going to be published someday, but I'm not going to donate it to anybody, I'm going to sell it. The papers I have are probably worth half a million dollars to some collector. My nonexistent papers, you know. It's just like my nonexistent artifacts. I'm maneuvering right now to sell some of them. I'm sure that if the right collector buys it, it will eventually put it on display. I'm not for two reasons. One is that these people have got too insistent at looking at it. I wouldn't show it to them on a bet. And the other reason is that if I show the part that they are looking for, then they're going to be in the position to examine the rest. I haven't fully used this material, which is quite interesting. It has commercial value to me. Did DuPont run around and show somebody the basic research it got to produce one chemical that anybody who looked at it could conjecture how to produce another chemical that has commercial value? Why should a writer be any different? You're a writer. If you had a bunch of valuable and high revealing resources, that would be the basis of additional writing provided somebody didn't scoop you with your own research, would you be showing them around? This is the key question.

So what are your plans for the future? You're working on The Earp Curse?
Boyer: In that book, I'm going to be covering all those questions you've been asking me. Basically, I'm just covering the development over the years of all the crap I've encountered in all the controversy. The people I have been running into all have an ax to grind. They aren't interested in historical veracity. They're interested in getting even with me for something real or imagined. But in every case they ask for it, you know.

And when you get done with The Earp Curse?
Boyer: When I get done with that, I'm going to take Wyatt Earp's autobiography, which is very evasive and incomplete incidentally, and I'm going to make it not evasive and incomplete. I'm going to finish it out by amplification and heavily annotating it. And I'm going to add a lot of photographs in it of the places the Earps lived and things like that. I mean, most of the photographs, incidentally, that have come out over the years, that nobody had ever seen before, I might add, I own. These guys that have used them would be between a rock and a hard spot if I said I faked them all. These guys that don't use my research because it can't be trusted have indeed used my research.

Did Wyatt Earp write his own autobiography or was it "as told to" somebody else?
Boyer: I don't think he was even interested in the goddamn thing. He did it with John Flood, and Flood was a terrible writer, I might add.

Was it ever published?
Boyer: No. When Stuart Lake started his book, though, he'd had the Flood manuscript. The Earps were not able to find a publisher for it for obvious reasons. Anyhow, it's never been published, and the last anybody saw of it was about 1931, when Stuart Lake probably deep-sixed his copy of it. I finally found it with Josephine Earp's heirs in 1977. One of two copies.

So you are going back through the autobiography and going to redo it?
Boyer: I'm going to expand it and make it into the book that it could have been. For example, Wyatt never said anything about his years in Lamar, Mo. I don't blame him, because there were a lot of things he wanted to cover up there. On the other hand, it's revealing because he left that out. It's revealing also that he left the Ben Thompson story out that appeared in Lake, because he and Flood were aware that Wyatt's autobiography needed all the pumping up that they could possibly put into it to get it published. Certainly if the Ben Thompson incident had really happened, they would have put it in there. Ben Thompson was the madman from Bitter Creek. If Wyatt had really arrested him, you don't think for a minute that he wouldn't have put it in his own biography, do you?

This is the kind of common sense you've got to apply to all these things people are accusing me of….Ninety percent of what I've found is pure gold. Five percent of it is inadvertently wrong, because I just didn't know any better at the time, and much of what I have said that people say is contradicting myself is correcting myself, based upon either being at liberty to reveal things now that I wasn't at liberty to reveal or that I've leaned better now. Now, that's no crap. Five percent of it, I'll tell you, since people have started attacking me is pure bull for the purpose of confounding them.

Any parting comments?
Boyer: History books are dry. I wrote Vendetta, and it's not dry. And that's its major offense, probably….I could have done Vendetta with footnotes and all that crap, and I could have faked it with footnotes, so I told the truth without footnotes, and it's this for which I'm being condemned. Ask yourself who else knew all these people? Who else today knows all the people who are still living? So whatever the limitations were in the form in which I decided, I was able to fulfill all my objectives, whatever they may be. I can live with them. And if a lot of people can't live with them, I look at these people and say, "The sooner they go, the better." They're real jerks. I should get credit for what I did. I know what my objectives were. My objectives were to say everything that I knew, to try to keep all my commitments to secrecy (and there were a lot of them) and to write a movie script.

Ten years after this interview appeared, Wild West magazine again interviewed Glenn Boyer. Click to read what the controversial writer, now in his eighties, had to say.


5 Responses to “Boyer vs. Tefertiller: Penslingers Face off over Wyatt Earp”


  1. 1
    dg says:

    i guess history is made of memories…and memories are embellished to a point of beautiful ornamentation, so , unless one was there at the point of an event, it's the matter of belief or belief in an ornamentation…

    being a product of my environment, truth must be recorded…

    ye gods….who thinks of the truth now…

  2. 2
    Dave Horton says:

    with out actually being there, how can you speculate. If someone is not truthful in there admissions nothing will be accurate. I have found this to be true in alot of so called experts in the south west on Wyatt Earp. D. Horton

  3. 3
    doug hogan says:

    that was an unbelievable interview!

    boyer sure has an attitude problem – he uses the word "crap" a little too often.

    his phrase, "I could have done Vendetta with footnotes and all that crap" reveals his complete lack of understanding of historical methodology.

    and holding onto his supposed valuable manuscripts so that he can sell them sure is not how real historians work!

    his works should be labeled "junk fiction and a pack of lies."

  4. 4
    Mike M says:

    Yes, the eagerness to admit his plans to sell them (and having mentioned an estimated value shows he has put some thought into it) did not sit well with me. I am not saying his work is fact, fiction or some cocktail of the two, but as an amateur historian, I'd like to think my mind would be more centered on the useful and valuable contributions such resources could be making and far, far away from how rich I will be when I sell them.

    I can appreciate the fact that if I worked my tail off to unearth many insights on a well sought-after subject like this only to have people stomping on my efforts and taking it for their own for decades, I might be sour too. However, when the few times you are part of a formal interview to help set your record straight comes up, as frustrated as I might be, I think I'd refrain from using comments like "that's none of your business".

    Without hearing his responces it's hard to be certain, but he does at times seem short and bitter. If I put in all this work to "set the record straight" as he has said he wanted to do for the Earp family, then I would think having a rational conversation about the leading causes of doubt that his questioners have would be a worthwhile and necessary thing. Why spend all those years digging up facts just to respond with "that's none of your business" when asked to clarify? I like his work, but as a person who like many historians like to have definitive answers, I just want to be hearing certain things from him, and I don't. That's frustrating. It's like his interview can be summed up with:
    "Well, I know I'm right, when I'm not joking, so there."

    That's the general feel of the interview that I got.

  5. 5

    [...] (Boyer vs. Tefertiller: Penslingers Face off over Wyatt Earp By Sierra Adare, Wild West Magazine) [...]



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