Thelma Adams’ “The Last Woman Standing” is an exciting meld of fact and fiction

There’s a great deal to be said about Thelma Adams’ book “The Last Woman Standing (Lake Union Publishing, $14.95) . . . and all of it good. Very, very good. A feminist western mixing real and fictional characters, and totally defiling the era and prevailing attitudes of the times is no easy trick to pull off, and Adams does it with humor and, lord help us all, charm.

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Adams has been writing features and criticism of the entertainment industry for quite a while. Her first novel, “Playdate”, a gossipy tale of a steamy community, won high critical acclaim. But here, in “The Last Woman Standing”, we have something special. Twenty years after the Civil War, a young daughter of faintly repressive Jewish immigrants escapes from San Francisco to Tombstone, Arizona to join wheeler dealer boyfriend Johnny Behan.

However, it is the legendary Wyatt Earp who steals her heart, aggravating Behan, and, well, we get a lady’s eye view of the famed gunfight at the O.K. Corral in the bargain. Part of the enjoyment of the work is the combined epic and the immediacy and tenderness of the tale is extraordinary.

The era is plagued by the memories of the Civil War, the steal steam animosity between the Lincoln Republican and Democrats, and the discovery of silver (and millions) in Tombstone. It may seem like an enormous leap, but Josephine Marcus, our heroine here, is at least the cousin if not the sister of Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennett. Spunkier (what an awful word!) and forced to deal with a bit more violence than the Austen heroine, her bravery, humor, and humanity shine forth in a novel well worth reading. Adams’ creation will stay with the reader for a good, long time.

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