Thelma Adams’ new novel, Last Woman Standing, is based on the real-life story of Josephine Marcus, a singer in the Old West who became the common law wife of legendary lawman Wyatt Earp and lived with him for 46 years and wrote a book about their life together. In an interview, the long-time movie critic and entertainment journalist explained what captured her attention in Marcus’s story and how Earp ended up buried in a Jewish cemetery.
How did you first learn about Josephine Marcus?
Google is a wonderful thing - and an incredible rabbit hole. I saw an image of Wyatt Earp’s grave in a Jewish cemetery in Colma, California. I’m Jewish and this struck me as strange and interesting: how did he come to be buried there? And in answering that question I found Josephine Sarah Marcus, an Eastern European Jew who settled with her family in the Bay Area after traveling through the Panama Canal from New York. I read her published memoir, I Married Wyatt Earp, discovered that it was not entirely reliable, found a different version entitled Wyatt’s Woman: The Unvarnished Memoirs and Recollections of Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp (1860-1944) edited (and self-published) by Earl Chafin. Neither of these are works of literature, nor are they the navel-gazing, scab-picking of, say, Kathryn Harrison’s The Kiss or Augusten Burroughs’ Running with Scissors or what we’ve come to know as contemporary confessional memoir. But they contained fascinating nuggets about Josephine and Wyatt and made me hungry for more. I filled in the gaps with biographical fiction.