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Funny how deception can define a life…Especially when it seems so necessary. Deception defined Wyatt Earp and the two women who were married to him longest. Their stories remained elusive, buried by the legend that emerged around Wyatt. Mattie Blaylock lived with him during the years when prostitution and corruption ran their lives, clinging to the lies she told herself and fighting to remain her own woman. Josephine Marcus deceived others her entire life, hiding her less-than-desirable past and opening doors to the role she craved. When Josie met Wyatt, it was easy enough to reinvent him as well. The myth that emerged from her fabrications created a history that destroyed Mattie and left Josie struggling to keep her stories straight.
Raised by strict and distant parents, Celia (Mattie) Blaylock yearns for love. A runaway, she becomes a prostitute to survive and meets Wyatt Earp. Wyatt offers the relationship she craves but it comes with a price. His get-rich-quick schemes center around brothels and gambling; his frequent failures force her to sell herself repeatedly. Each time, Wyatt assures her it is temporary. She convinces herself he loves her, that respectability will come soon.
Born poor, Josephine (Sadie) Marcus covets wealth and prestige. Early in her life, she learns to manipulate the truth to reach her goals. At fourteen, faced with the matchmaker’s undesirable candidates, she leaves home to become a high-class prostitute. Discovering she’s been tricked, she seeks another route to her dream: Johnny Behan, Arizona politician and lawman. She chases him, reinventing herself several times before realizing he only means to use her. When she meets Wyatt, Johnny is forgotten.
Their lives converge in Tombstone. As they emerge from the maelstrom of the now-famous 1881gunfight, Wyatt chooses Josie. Mattie is forgotten, her very existence buried as her life wanes, her discovery of reality coming too late. She turns to laudanum and whiskey to dull her pain and dies alone. Josephine crafts a myth around Wyatt, recasting all of their histories. The legend of Wyatt as a respectable lawman emerges but his fame fails to bring Josie the satisfaction she seeks. She struggles to keep her stories straight, never satisfied with the biographies others craft.
Published in hardcover 2/2022. Necessary Deceptions is a current finalist for the Laramie Award.
“Many of the scenes in this novel take place in whorehouses in the lawless West. The narration, whether told to us by Celie or Josephine, is folksy and natural, giving a strong sense of place and character. It is a rapidly paced book, with twists and heartbreaks maintaining interest throughout. The novel shows evidence of extensive research and a perceptive winnowing of truths, half-truths and deceptions. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, one wonders how close the author has come to the truth about Wyatt Earp.” –Historical Novel Society, February 2022 (review by Valerie Adolph)
“Nowak’s sensitive and unflinching exploration of the Earp women, who fight the world and each other to love and protect their famous men, grips the reader from the start.” —K. Lyn Wurth, author of The Not So Quiet Life of Calamity Jane
“Wonderful book, well written and well researched! I loved this author’s other books as well. She has a way of bringing these characters to life and give them their authentic voices.” —Amazon Customer
“I love how the author brings history to life! I love her books!” –-Melissa
“In Necessary Deceptions, Pam Nowak tells an unforgettable story about two unforgettable women. She follows the trials and falsehoods of Josephine Marcus and Mattie Blaylock. These most notable women who loved Wyatt Earp faced a dramatic and violent frontier where women must struggle, and often lie, to survive.” —Amazon Customer
“Pamela Nowak’s research is always meticulous for her historical fiction, and her detailed review of what’s true and what’s not true a gift to the reader. Necessary Deceptions: The Women of Wyatt Earp is a great example of her work. In this novel of frontier fiction, Nowak explores the lives of the two women who were married to Earp the longest, their dashed dreams and their broken lives as they try to survive in brothels, their lies as they attempt to reinvent themselves and Wyatt as well. The brothel scenes were pretty explicit, but they work for the story. Nowak’s writing is excellent.” Pat Stoltey
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“I was pulled in right from the beginning of this novel! The portrayal of Wyatt Earp’s second and third wives, Mattie and Josie, was both engrossing and informative. Nowak carefully builds the story of the two women, and along the way we learn the unsavory truth about the Earp brothers. Even though I sometimes wondered about Mattie and Josie’s choices, I was always rooting for them, because Nowak skillfully made me care. I highly recommend this well-researched book!” —Rebecca D’Harlingue
“In her characteristic devotion to meticulous research, Nowak brings fiction to enliven truth. While her characters are hard to pin down, Nowak doesn’t limit them, either. She breathes life into their truth and their lies. The result is a remarkable story. One of the most interesting aspects of Josephine Marcus is her masterful management and distortion of Wyatt Earp’s story, as well as her own. The deceptions compound and convolute, leaving all three characters, including Wyatt Earp, often wondering where the truth lies. It’s refreshing to read a novel that doesn’t focus only on Earp but gives his women their due voices and stories as their lives entwine with his. I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend this novel to any fans of women’s stories, lovers of historical and Western fiction, and aficionados of Earp history. Nowak’s storytelling never disappoints.” –Amazon Customer