Gone With the Wind Goes West
Inheritance (Book One)
The name Doc Holliday conjures images of the Wild West and the shootout at the OK Corral, but before he was a Western legend, John Henry Holliday was a Southern son, born in the last days of the Old South with family ties to author Margaret Mitchell – and a rumored romance with a cousin who became the model for Melanie in Gone With the Wind.
That was the untold story I had discovered in my work as founding director of the Circa 1855 Holliday-Dorsey-Fife House Museum, the antebellum home of the Holliday family in Georgia. The house was a classic Southern beauty, a Greek Revival-style mansion standing on a tree-shaded street just off the courthouse square in Fayetteville, forty miles south of Atlanta. It was right in the middle of Gone With the Wind country – and in the book itself, as the Holliday’s House was once used to board students from the local private school, the Fayetteville Academy. As Margaret Mitchell writes in the first chapter of Gone With the Wind: “Scarlett had not willingly opened a book since leaving the Fayetteville Academy...”
The Holliday-Dorsey-Fife House Museum, Fayetteville, GeorgiaOf course, there were other Southern Belles who attended the Fayetteville Academy in those last days before the war, as Scarlett O’Hara did, including a girl named Annie who was a lot like Scarlett: her family lived on a big cotton plantation in neighboring Clayton County, her father was a feisty Irishman named Gerald, her mother had green velvet drapes hanging in her parlor windows, she went to Atlanta during the Civil War and survived on a little grace and whole lot of gumption. But unlike Scarlett, who was fictional, Annie was real. Her father wasn’t Gerald O’Hara but Phillip FitzGerald, her mother who owned those green velvet drapes wasn’t Ellen but Eleanor, and she was Margaret Mitchell’s grandmother!
Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the WindAlthough Mitchell, cautioned by her attorney father, always insisted that none of her characters were based on real people, some of them were very clearly inspired by real people. But there was one family member who was more than just inspiration – she actually gave her name to a character in the book. She was Annie FitzGerald’s cousin, which made her Margaret Mitchell’s cousin-twice-removed, an elderly nun living in Atlanta when Mitchell was writing Gone With the Wind. Mitchell went to visit her while she was working on the novel and asked if she might name a character in the book after her. The nun’s answer was a sweet, “Just make her a good person.” The nun’s name was Sister Melanie, and the character named after her was Melanie Hamilton, Ashley Wilkes’ wife.
Melanie Hamilton Wilkes, as portrayed by Olivia deHavillandAnd here’s the most intriguing information of all. Before Sister Melanie became a nun, she was a girl named Mattie Holliday, and she too had a connection to the Holliday’s house in Fayetteville, as the owner was her uncle and she was one of the cousins who used to play there. And her favorite of those cousins was a boy who also came to visit from his hometown in nearby Griffin – young John Henry, who would one day be known as “Doc” Holliday. They were close as children and sweethearts when they were older, and though we’ll never know for certain until their rumored love letters reappear, some say it was their ill-starred love affair that sent her to a convent and him running West into a life of legendary adventures. And what a love affair it would have been: Melanie from Gone With the Wind in love with Doc Holliday from the OK Corral, the Old South meeting up with the Wild West, or literature and legend falling in love!
John Henry “Doc” HollidayThat was the story I had stumbled across as we turned the Holliday’s antebellum home into the Holliday-Dorsey-Fife House Museum – a story only hinted at in movies like “Tombstone” where a dying Doc Holliday confesses that his one true love was a cousin who entered a convent over the affair. But living (and dying) years before author Margaret Mitchell was born, the movie Doc couldn't mention that his lost love was also the model for Melanie in Gone With the Wind.
But I could, in a saga that starts in Georgia during the Civil War and follows young John Henry Holliday as he goes from Southern son to Texas outlaw to Western legend. Southern Son: The Saga of Doc Holliday spreads over three historical novels, sweeping from the Old South to the Wild West in a story of heroes and villains, dreams lost and found, families broken and reconciled, of sin and recompense and the redeeming power of love. It’s the best history I could find in eighteen years of research (during which I became a nationally known expert and speaker on the life of Doc Holliday) and a real-life love story almost too good to be true. I like to think of it as Gone With the Wind meets Lonesome Dove!
The first book in the Southern Son trilogy is Inheritance, published by Knox Robinson Publishing, London. Release date is May 8th in hardcover and eBook at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and selected bookstores everywhere. The paperback follows December 4th. My book tour for Inheritance began with an appearance in Tombstone, Arizona, site of the OK Corral shootout, and takes me across ten states to all the places Holliday knew in his adventurous life. The US Book Launch is June 1 at the Margaret Mitchell House Museum in Atlanta, where Gone With the Wind was written – a fitting start for a book that stars the real people behind Mitchell’s classic epic. For information on the Book Launch, contact the Margaret Mitchell House at 404-814-4114.
For more information on Southern Son: The Saga of Doc Holliday, please visit my author website at http://www.victoriawilcoxbooks.com.
About the Author
Victoria Wilcox is founding director of the Holliday-Dorsey-Fife House Museum, the antebellum home of the family of Doc Holliday. Her work with the house led to eighteen years of original research and inspired her novel trilogy, Southern Son: The Saga of Doc Holliday. She has been advisor and contributor to other authors, has lectured extensively and appeared on various television programs relating to her work. A member of the Western Writers of America, Wilcox’s writing on the Old South and Wild West has been featured in such publications as TrueWest Magazine and North Georgia Journal. Drawing on her lifelong love of music and theater, she has written songs for Nashville recording artists and authored the musical Goin’ to Zion! along with numerous smaller theatrical works.
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