The West of the Big River series continues with THE DOCTOR, an all-new, exciting novel based on actual historical characters and incidents by acclaimed Western author Clay More, author of STAMPEDE AT RATTLESNAKE PASS and many other novels from the Western Fictioneers Library. One of the most stirring time periods in Old West history comes to vivid life in this tale of vengeance and heroism and a frontier sawbones dedicated to healing.
Tombstone, Arizona Territory, 1891
Dr. George Goodfellow removed his stethoscope from the man’s bare back and went back to his roll-top desk.
“You can get dressed now, Stanley,” he said as he picked up his pen and made some notes on the record card in front of him. “You have a slight bronchial irritation, but nothing too serious. I’ll make up a cough linctus for you and drop it off at your office before lunch.”
Stanley C. Bagg, the five-foot tall owner and editor of the Tombstone Prospector and laterally, also the owner of the Tombstone Epitaph, tucked his shirt into his pants and pulled on his jacket. Then he pulled out a pair of wire-framed spectacles from his breast pocket and settled them on his thin nose.
“Thank you, George,” he said, standing and immediately provoking a coughing fit. He covered his mouth with his hand and then thumped the front of his chest, which seemed to have the desired effect in stopping the cough. “I guess it is inhaling all that darned paper dust and ink fumes that does it.”
The two men were old friends, as were their wives and daughters. Or at least, their wives had been good friends until the month before when Dr. Goodfellow’s wife Katherine died in Oakland from the tuberculosis that had plagued her for years. And both men were known to be forthright in their opinions and in their manners. Stanley was a bullish, combative newspaperman who for all his lack of height was a formidable man to cross. He had been prepared to serve a jail sentence for contempt of court when he refused to pay a fine imposed upon him by District Judge Barnes. Fortunately, several of his friends, including his friend and doctor had donated money to keep the newspaperman out of jail, while leaving his personal integrity intact.
As for Dr. George Emory Goodfellow, he had built the premier medical practice in Tombstone and garnered a considerable reputation throughout the Southwest as the surgeon to have operating on you, if you had a choice. He was prepared to push back the frontiers of his craft and perform operations that no one had tried before or even thought to be possible.
“It is probably more to do with those evil-smelling cigars that you insist on smoking. I’ve told you before, you are poisoning your system.”
Stanley guffawed. “And that is coming from a man who was advising me that a good pipe keeps a lot of diseases away when we were chatting just last week.”
George stood up. He was taller than the newspaperman. He was thirty-six years old and powerfully built, like the boxing champion he had been at the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis in his youth. He had been hotheaded back then and gotten involved in a fight at the Academy, the result being a win for George. Unfortunately, his prize was expulsion and discharge for lack of respect for discipline. That had been the time when he had chosen to make his career in medicine.
He had black hair with a central parting, a full mustache and steely eyes that could smolder with anger, twinkle with amusement or which could be reassuring in the extreme. As usual he was wearing a bow tie and a dark suit with his polished knee high boots.
He pointed to the wall above his desk upon which hung his framed medical degree beside a framed copy of the Hippocratic Oath, and in a small glass-fronted box a silver double-headed eagle medallion of Austria, which had once been the property of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico. Stanley had written an article about it when it had been presented to Doctor George Goodfellow by President Porfirio Diaz, along with a horse named El Rosillo in 1888 following the Sonora earthquake. They were given as tokens of Mexican esteem after he had loaded up his wagon with medical supplies and led a party ninety miles to Bavispe, Sonora, Mexico to treat survivors and injured. Then in the following months he had returned along with Camillus Sidney Fly, the town photographer, to study and record the effects of the earthquake. Together they travelled over seven hundred miles through the Sierra Madre Mountains. Both Camillus Fly’s photographs and George Goodfellow’s maps and reports earned national praise. The photographs of the earthquake rupture scarp were widely syndicated and George’s geological study had been praised by the united States Geological Service.
Stanley knew that his friend was proud of the award, yet he was far prouder of the fact that the townsfolk of Bavispe had called him El Santo Doctor, the sainted doctor. His fluency in Spanish had helped, since he could communicate, explain and reassure the injured in their own tongue. It was typical of the man that he cared more about what his patients thought of him as a doctor than he did for all the accolades and prestige that he seemed to accumulate with little effort. He was just a natural subject for newspaper coverage, one of those characters that the frontier seemed to throw up every now and then.
But it was to the framed Oath that George directed his attention. “See that Hippocratic Oath, Stanley?” he asked rhetorically. “You know as well as I do that I live by it, as best I can. If I take someone on as a patient I’ll give him or her the best treatment I can and advise them to the best of my ability. You have to accept that sometimes, like when we were chatting last week, my best may be impaired. If you recall we were playing poker at the time in the Crystal Palace saloon and we had both drunk four or five whiskies. I actually said that a good pipe kept some diseases away, on account of pipe tobacco’s natural ability to keep pesky flies and bluebottles away from the vicinity. And as you well know, the good Lord blessed us here in Tombstone with more than our fair share of the creatures.”
His hands went up to grasp the lapels of his coat, a slightly pompous mannerism of his that many folks found intimidating, because it was usually accompanied by a slight raising of his jaw and a triumphant twinkle in his eye that signaled, at least in his mind, that he had either won, or was about to win an argument.
“So, my friend, you can see that the advice I gave you was the best I could give under the circumstances.”
Stanley opened his mouth to protest when there was a sudden commotion from the waiting room outside. Voices were raised and there were exclamations of amazement. Then there was the noise of heavy boots racing across the wood floor and a beating on the door was followed by it being immediately thrown open.
“Doc Goodfellow! You’ve got to come over to Campbell and Hatch’s Pool Parlor. There’s a guy dying there.”
George recognized the messenger as Walt Harper, one of the ushers from the Schieffelin Hall. He could see the panic in his face.
“I didn’t hear any shooting. What is it, a knifing?”
“It’s Red Douglas. He’s choking and seems to be having some kind of fit.”
The doctor had already sprung into action. He had grabbed his black bag then dashed to a cupboard from which he took out a couple of small wooden cases which he threw into the bag.
“Stanley, don’t you come. That cough will start up if you try to run. Get going, Walt, I’m right behind you.”
“And miss a story?” Stanley rejoined him. “Not on your life. I’ll just take the stairs nice and easy and I’ll meet you there.”
But the town doctor had already gone. As he charged through the waiting room he barked a quick, “Emergency call, folks. I should be back in half an hour.”
Then he was out the door and dashing down the outer steps of the Crystal Palace Saloon from his office.
As was often the case when folks saw Dr. Goodfellow racing someplace he attracted a number of followers who tagged on behind him. Tombstone was that sort of place. It had a lot of folks who seemed to have an unhealthy interest in sudden death. As long as it wasn’t their own.
Clay More is the western pen-name of Keith Souter, a part time doctor, medical journalist and novelist. He lives and works within arrowshot of the ruins of a medieval castle in England. In 2014 he was elected as Vice President of Western Fictioneers and he is also a member of Western Writers of America, The Crime Writers’ Association, International Thriller Writers and several other writers organizations.
He writes novels in four genres – crime as Keith Moray, Westerns as Clay More, Historical crime and YA as Keith Souter. His medical background finds its way into a lot of his writing, as can be seen in this novel about Doctor George Goodfellow as well as in most of his western novels and short stories. His character in Wolf Creek is Doctor Logan Munro, the town doctor, who is gradually revealing more about himself with each book he appears in. Another of his characters is Doctor Marcus Quigley, dentist, gambler and bounty hunter. He has recently published a collection of short stories about him in Adventures from the Casebook of D Marcus Quigley, published by High Noon Press.
If you care to find out more about him visit his website: http://www.keithsouter.co.uk
Or his blog http://moreontherange.blogspot.co.uk
Or check out his regular contribution about 19th Century Medicine here on the WF blog.