Notable Books

These books, although not selected as top picks, are ones worth reading.

F  indicates fiction.

100 Classic Hikes in Arizona
By Scott S. Warren. Mountaineer Books. 253pp. Index. . $21.95.
Anatomy of the Grand Canyon: Panoramas of the Canyon's Geology
By W. Kenneth Hamblin. Grand Canyon Association. 143pp. Index. $49.95.
Magnificent panoramic photos of the Grand Canyon are keyed to the layered rock formations, geologic faults, and place names. The result is an exceptionally vivid and clear portrayal of the canyon’s geology. Kenneth Hamblin strived to show “the canyon’s fundamental features, the sequence of rocks,” and geologic structure. And he does. The panoramas give the sense of standing on the rim or in the canyon. I do wish he had talked a bit about his camera and panorama photography. A beautiful book. []
Ancient Landscapes of the Colorado Plateau
By Ronald C. Blakey, Wayne Ranney. Grand Canyon Association. 156pp. Index. $34.95.
When we think of geologic time, the Grand Canyon’s slice of eons comes to mind. But this book takes the canyon’s history back into deep geology, back 1.75 billion years, when much of what we think of as North America was covered by ocean. This imaginative recreation is portrayed by photos, paintings, and charts, and backed by a sound understanding of plate tectonic geology. You don’t need much knowledge of geology to understand or appreciate this book, but you will need a limber mind to comprehend the scope of time and distance. Just when you think you’ve seen the canyon from every perspective, this one comes along with a new look. Very well done. []
Arab/American: Landscape, Culture, and Cuisine in Two Great Deserts
By Gary Paul Nabhan. University of Arizona Press. 0pp. Index. . $17.95.
Possibly the Southwest’s most famous Arab-American is Hi Jolly, the camel driver hired by the US Army back in the 1850s. Know to others as Hadji Ali, he is honored with a monument at Quartzite, Arizona. But his story is only one of thousands where migrants from the Middle East venture to the new world, bringing customs, foods, words, and culture. They have been here so long and securely that we seldom stop to think about their arrival. Gary Paul Nabhan journeys to home to Syria and Oman to reconnect with his ancestors, and finds more links with the Southwest and the Middle East than he ever imagined. This revealing book is an enthusiastic reminder to rejoice in the family of man. Because of this book, we’ll need to refocus our perceptions of who we are.
By coincidence, in the past few weeks I interviewed two friends from the small community of Ajo, Arizona. Their families came to America before 1900, one family from Turkey and one from Syria. Their names were Americanized and today their many friends and neighbors rarely stop to think that these second and third-generation Americans step out of Nabhan’s delightful book and into the American Dream.
Aridland Springs in North America: Ecology and Conservation
By Vicky J. Meretsky, Lawrence E. Stevens. University of Arizona Press/Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. 432pp. (Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Studies in Natural History). Foreword by Gary Paul Nabhan.. $75.00.
Few topics are more interesting than water in the desert. Of the seventeen chapters in this significant book, several focus on places in the Southwest. Dean Blinn details the dynamics of Montezuma’s Well in Arizona (ch 6), James Cornett provides deep insights into desert fan palm oases (ch 8), and Gary Nabhan explains plant diversity at the rich springs at Quitovac in Sonora (ch 12). And, of potentially long-lasting influence is the chapter proposing a spring classification system (ch 4). This book takes a proud place next to others in the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum series. []
At the Confluence of Change: A History of Tonto National Monument
By Nancy Dallett. Western National Parks Association. 253pp. Index. $21.95.
Tonto cliff dwelling was built by the ancient Salado people along the Salt River, east of the modern city of Phoenix, Arizona. The ruins are important for visualizing life back then, and this book is important for understanding and appreciating the struggles to preserve the dwelling and its artifacts. The book readably portrays at the larger picture of preservation policy and politics for other historic monuments in the Southwest. Many human stories add humor and interest to make this a lively tale. For example, while bathing in the open, one early superintendent had to keep an ear out for visitors approaching on the road below. Nicely done report on a fine national monument that opened in 1907. []
Borders Within, The: Encounters Between Mexico and the U.S.
By Douglas Monroy. University of Arizona Press. 256pp. Index. . $21.95.
What a pleasure to listen to someone who is thoughtful and reasoned, touching and visionary. In seven exceptionally smooth essays, Douglas Monroy studies the personal borders dividing people in our Southwest. Lumping Southwest citizens into “them” and “us,” Mexican and American, is neither productive nor accurate. Monroy “has issues,” as do each of us living here, but he faces his honestly, boldly, and looks to the future. His is an honest account, personal and inspiring. My favorite chapter is titled “How the new world border changes us.” []
Born of Fire: the Life and Pottery of Margaret Tafoya
By Charles S. King. Museum of New Mexico Press. 160pp. Index. . $45.00.
We are introduced to the matriarch of a dynasty of Santa Clara potters, Margaret Tafoya (1904-2001). "Clay is a gift," she told her children and grandchildren, "it is a privilege that the Clay Mother gives us and we are very fortunate. Though Taqfoya won many ribbons for her pots, she neither innovated a style like Maria Martinez' black pots or revived an art form like Nampeyo did with Hopi pottery. She turned out traditional Santa Clara pots, both in redware and black, many of which featured a carved design, and all perfectly polished. She is particularly noted for her enormous storage jars, and often used her traditional bear paw in some form on the jar. Here is a fine example of the evolution of folk art to fine art. The author has attempted to date Tafoya's works by noting the change in her signature over time. Margaret Tafoya haed 10 children, eight of whom became prize-winning potters in their own right. The books is a treasure and it is one waqy to own all of Tafoya's pots since it is amply illustrateed with her creations as well as those of her children []
Cacti of Texas, a Field Guide: with Emphasis on the Trans-Pecos Species
By A. Michael Powell, Shirley A. Powell, James F. Weedin. Texas Tech University Press. 383pp. . $24.95.
Although this book extends beyond the Southwest and covers the entire state of Texas, it belongs in your collection. The authors ably and clearly present the Lone Star state’s 132 species of cacti so that laymen as well as experts can identify what they see in the field. Using the maps and to photos to hunt down the cacti would make an interesting vacation. Even if you already own Cacti of the Trans-Pecos, you’ll enjoy this companion book. The many photos and maps are very helpful, and the information enlightening. This is one in the Texas Tech’s Grover E. Murray Studies series, which in becoming a classic run of books. Other states should be so lucky. []
Chaco Experience, The: Landscape and Ideology at the Center Place
By Ruth M. Van Dyke. School for Advanced Research Press. 314pp. Index. . $34.95.
Fine writing here as Van Dyke surveys what is known about Chaco Canyon from archaeological evidence as well as the speculations (and outright guesses) of experts. Yet, the reading enjoyment is spoiled by the academic paraphernalia. Aimed at archaeologists and others with the appropriate technical knowledge, the flow of the text is interrupted by the position, within many paragraphs and upon almost every page, of parenthetical citations to sources that are the sine quo non of academicians. Difficult reading for the non-specialist unless one can train the eye to skip the interruptions. Still, an important updating of our knowledge about southwestern prehistory. []
Colonias in Arizona and New Mexico: Border Poverty and Community Development Solutions
By Angela J. Donelson, Adrian X. Esparza. University of Arizona Press. 205pp. Index. . $19.95.
The authors have adopted the term colonias as a designator for towns, villages, even “cumulations” of dwellings loosely affiliated by proximity. They range from cities like Nogales, Arizona, to a small group of no-longer-mobile homes plopped down near each other on a few acres of desert landscape. Clearly an academic study, this “report” both outlines how these colonias came to be, what their similarities and differences are, and, most important, ways in which the residents of them can improve their lives. Not for the casual reader, this is a serious look at a major issue in our border lands. []
Corridors of Migration: the Odyssey of Mexican Laborers, 1600-1933
By Rodolfo Acuña. University of Arizona Press. 408pp. Index. . $49.95.
Here is the detailed saga of colonization along the U. S. Mexico border and exploitation of Native people and Mexican workers by California growers and Arizona copper barons. Though the title brings the reader to 1933, there is additional information on the strike in Arizona copper towns during 1983 and 1984. Finely researched and well-written, this book is for students and specialists; not necessarily the casual reader. []
Counting Rings: Tree-Ring Dating
By Tom Gidwitz . Western National Parks Association. 14pp. $2.95.
Just about everything one needs to know about tree ring dating is artistically packed into this 14-page booklet its scientific name is Dendrochronology and was introduced by Andrew E. Douglas of the University of Arizona in 1901. Researchers have used the technique to dat4e prehistoric ruins in the Four Corners area of the southwest. They learned that trees growing in the same climate and area showed the same pattern of rings during times of drought and times of rain. But the same techniques can be applied all over the world and used to date objects made of wood. []
Creating Outdoor Classrooms: Schoolyard Habitats and Gardens for the Southwest
By Lauri Macmillan Johnson, Kim Duffek. University of Texas Press. 191pp. $39.95.
Probably like you, when springtime came I looked out the classroom window and longed to do something outside, maybe plant a garden, watch lizards, or build a pond, anything to bring life to textbook pages. This book brims with insight into backyard ecology and enthusiasm for biology. The text is clear and the profuse illustrations are inviting. The book is very well done, and is a practical and noble enterprise. Although written for the classroom, homeowners may find much here that will bring interest and activity to their own yards and neighborhoods. Many of the projects can be adapted to your own children or grandchildren; banish boredom. []
Damage Control
By J. A. Jance. William Morrow. 374pp. $25.95. F.
Joanna Brady doesn't have much time to spend with her new baby since a car flew over a cliff under suspicious circumstances ending the life of an elderly couple. Then there are the siblings who fight over an inheritance, some mysterious drugs, a trash bag filled with human remains, a missing person, and her interfering mother. As has been said before, it is just another week in the life of Bisbee's favorite sheriff. []
Death Song: a Kevin Kerney Novel
By Michael McGarrity. Dutton. 293pp. . $24.95. F.
Falcons of North America
By Kate Davis. Mountain Press Publishing Co.. 227pp. $22.00.
Field Guide to Biological Soil Crusts of Western U.S. Drylands: Common Lichens and Bryophytes
By , Jayne Belnap, Mathew Bowker, Roger Rosentreter. U.S. Government Printing Office. 103pp. Available online: .
If you don’t already know soil crusts, you should. They are alive and are ecologically crucial. Composed of lichens, fungi, mosses, cyanobacteria, and other living parts, they hold soil together, retain soil moisture, nourish the soil, and provide food for a host of microscopic critters. This handy and much needed field guide will help you to indentify and understand 70 species of mosses and lichens that unassumingly fill the wide open spaces of the Southwest. []
Fifty Years of Change on the U.S.-Mexico Border: Growth, Development, and Quality of Life
By Joan B. Anderson, James Gerber. University of Texas Press. 275pp. . $24.95.
Some books turn on the lights. This one shines brightly on borderland economics and demography, with light clear enough for the general public and strong enough for scholars. Its fascinating ten chapters on the borderlands range across population, labor, environment, living standards, and border relations. Pick a page, any page, and you’ll learn something new and important about the border economy. The authors’ affection and concern for the region comes through, as does their expertise. One aspect of the border economy and culture that they do not document or explain are the enormous, insidious effects of crime, drugs, and corruption on both sides of the fence. []
Flowers, The: a Novel
By Dagoberto Gilb. Grove. 250pp. . $24.00. F.
Gilb recreates the modern inner-city experience inside the walls of Los Flores (The Flowers), a Los Angeles apartment building where fifteen-year-old Sonny Bravo makes his way through a vibrant world of sex and love, broken relationships, identity and longing, and ultimately racial and ethnic violence. Gilb's trademark muscular prose and wicked sense of humor (Sonny is teaching himself French in the hope of one day visiting Notre Dame - the cathedral, not the legendary college football powerhouse)lend depth and nuance to this provocative, richly imagined parable. []
Flying High: Remembering Barry Goldwater
By William F. Buckley. Basic Books. 195pp. . $25.95.
Foundations of New World Cultural Astronomy: a Reader with Commentary
By Anthony F. Aveni. University Press of Colorado. 826pp. Index. $34.95.
Garden of Aloes, A
By G. Davies Jandrey. The Permanent Press. 240pp. . $18.00. F.
Jandrey lets her characters, six women--three adult, three young (14, 15 and 11), speak for themselves in alternating chapters. Living in the Miracle Mile area of Tucson they present a spectrum of views of each other as well as their surroundings. The rape of the youngest, coming late in the story, serves to remind the reader of the variety of life experiences that may, as one woman opines, toughen our outsides but leave us humans with soft centers. Excellent dialog and character development, a story well-told from many points of view. []
Glorious Defeat, A: Mexico and its War with the United States
By Timothy J. Henderson. Hill & Wang. 216pp. Index. . $14.00.
God's Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre
By Richard Grant. Free Press. 290pp. Index. . $15.00.
The book is for guys who like adventure and to take chances. Here is a true story by an Englishman, obviously bored with the hum drum of daily life, so he risked a trip into Mexico's Sierra Madre where any rules governing law and order were non-existent. The place was an outpost for drug lords, opium farmers, smugglers, and others needing somewhere to hide. Mixed in this batch of humanity are the Native people of the area, the Tarahumara. The author depicted this group as mostly drunk and whose Easter celebration was a surreal combination of changing, drumming, whooping, and dancing. In using God's Middle Finger as the title for the book, he was referring to the one remaining finger on an effigy of God about to do battle with good and evil. It would have been appropriate for the author to describe the Tarahumara world view as a combination of long held indigenous beliefs and mission teachings and that they use effigies to act out these beliefs and above all to ploe4ase God so that he will continue to care for them. They also brew their own beer, tesguino, and drinking parties are an accepted ritual in this culture. []
The story line is that a mad dog Englishman, Richard Grant, goes to Mexico’s Sierra Madre and keeps butting heads with treacherous bandits, drug runners, corrupt lawmen, and psychopaths. He survives, but if his portrayal of Mexican machismo, lawlessness, corruption, and savagery is accurate, then Mexico may not. Grant is an observant and gifted writer who ventured to the dark side where the rest of us wouldn’t dare to go. Mexico is at times a changing and creative third world country, but it is brutalized by the drug trade and crime at all levels of government. To grasp the problem you need only understand that tourists riding the famous train through the Barranca del Cobre are granted safe passage from bandits not by the police or federal army, but by drug lords who think that petty crime is bad for business and who shot the last men who tried to rob the train. And the tourist hotels? They’re built with laundered drug money from profits made in the US. Grant’s story is raw and violent, and far more urgent than this morning’s blind-eye headlines. This book is a hurricane flag for citizens on both sides of the southern borderlands. []
Great Chiles Rellenos Book, The
By Janos Wilder. Ten Speed Press. 144pp. Index. $16.95.
Here is a darned interesting cookbook filled with yum-in-the-tum recipes for chiles rellenos. Perhaps better for reading or adding to a cookbook collection, however, since its size, 10x4 inches makes it difficult to keep open. There are some interesting salads, but those who watch waistlines and without a lot of time to deep fry many of these dishes, will have to enjoy the food vicariously. []
Guide to American Indian Beadwork of the Southwest, A
By Rose Houk. Western National Parks Association. 47pp. . $ .
American Indians have long used shell and porcupine quills for decorating clothing, moccasins, cradleboards, and more. With the introduction of glass beads in the mid 1500s the art took off and today one can find beaded bowls, tennis shoes, bags, purses and pouches, jewelry, baskets, and miniatures. The Arizona Quechan and Cocopah are noted for their fine beaded collars, he Apache create beaded hair ornaments, while the Zuni are particularly creative with little figurines. A nice little book for the basics. []
Hard Trail to Follow
By Elmer Kelton. Forge. 288pp. . $24.95. F.
It is hard to believe that each Kelton novel is better than the one before. This Texan, with more than 50 novels under his Stetson has given us another good story. Andy Pickard, Texas Ranger, has some exciting adventures as he follows the trail of the outlaw who killed his friend, Sheriff Blessing. As can be expected, Kelton is a master at creating believable characters and an unexpected finale. []
Historic Native Peoples of Texas
By William C. Foster. University of Texas Press. 346pp. Index. . $29.95.
Since the goal of historic Texas was to eliminate all Native people from its soil, and the state pretty well succeeded, this volume is most welcome. A result of prodigious research, the author has assembled an account of hundreds of tribes that occupied eight geographic regions over mainland Texas between 1528 and 1722. He has used translations from expedition diaries beginning with Cabeza de Vaca. A map accompanies each region or study area showing the location of the various tribes. Two appendices add further value: the first lists some 20 animals reported by both Spanish and French expeditions; the second includes 40 wild and domesticated plants to 1722. The book will be welcomed by teachers, anthropologists historians, and scholars. []
Hohokam Millennium, The
By Paul R. Fish, Suzanne K. Fish. School for Advanced Research Press. 154pp. . $24.95.
This book is a laudable effort to share what is known about the people who dominated central Arizona from about A.D. 450-1450 in what is called the Hohokam Millennium. These were the famed canal builders of the Salt River Valley, who at one time irrigated 70,000 acres. This volume assembles the experts to share the latest archaeological findings and to put that culture into modern perspective. The excellent photos and extensive maps breathe life into people who are now gone--- or are they? Some believe that modern tribes are their descendants, making the culture that much richer. It’s a beautiful book with stimulating reading. And the shadow of the collapsed irrigation technology looms like a vulture over modern cities and farms--- if drought and depletion could happen to the grandest ancient farmers of the Southwest, could it happen to us? []
By Susan Cummins Miller. Texas Tech University Press. 280pp. . $24.95. F.
Images: Jack Dykinga's Grand Canyon
By Charles Bowden, Jack W. Dykinga, Wayne Ranney. Arizona Highways. 110pp. Index. $39.95.
Wow! I just returned from a hike in the Grand Canyon and here I am gazing at a book about the place as caught on film by master photographer Jack Dykinga. Each page evokes an old memory and a new perspective. Among my many favorite photographs are the subtleties of Mather Point in sun and snow (pages 38-39), the sweeping grandeur of Point Sublime (pages 62-63), the vertigo of Cape Royal (pages 68-69), and the stout but balanced rock (page 95). Excellent essays by prose-poet Charles Bowden and geologist Wayne Ranney provide words after Dykinga's photos have left us speechless. []
Incredible Grand Canyon, The: Cliffhangers and Curiosities From America's Greatest Canyon
By Scott Thybony. Grand Canyon Association. 127pp. Index. . $14.95.
Thybony’s collection of succinctly-written anecdotes, scandals, romances, truths, and cliffhangers is a celebration of Arizona’s hometown wonder of the world. Some of his stories recount canyon legends, and others are long-lost tales that came to light through his thorough research. His selection will make you laugh, and wonder, and will touch your heart. You might even learn a few facts from this very readable book. []
Thybony is a fine writer and this book proves once again that he is a fine researcher as well. []
Indian Country: Sacred Ground, Native Peoples
By John Annerino. Countryman Press. 127pp. . $29.95.
Into Thick Air: Biking to the Bellybutton of Six Continents
By Jim Malusa. Sierra Club Books. 321pp. $16.95.
This immensely enjoyable chronicle captures the spirit of exploration: go someplace new and have fun learning about it. The author bicycles to the lowest points of ground on six continents, including Death Valley, with minimal equipment and fanfare. He keenly observes the countryside and delights us with tales of the local citizens and customs along the way, all told with a child-like curiosity and off-beat humor that bring us back for more. Although the title plays off John Krakauer’s masterpiece Into Thin Air, Malusa’s anti-expedition ranks with the best of travelogues. []
Jerry Bywaters: Lone Star Printmaker
By Ellen Buie Niewyk. Southern Methodist University Press. 208pp. Index. . $35.00.
Bywaters left his archive of southwestern drawings, paintings, and prints to Southwestern Methodist University. In addition to a brief biography, the volume contains reproductions of his work with a detailed description of each item. He was a skillful illustrator and leader of what became known as the Dallas Nine. In addition to teaching duties at SMU, he also directed the Dallas Museum of Art for some 20 years. The coffee table-sized book belongs in every southwestern repository and art museum for the use of both artists aned scholars. []
Jim Burns' Arizona Birds: From the Backyard to the Backwoods
By Jim Burns. University of Arizona Press. 239pp. Index. . $16.95.
The last thing you or I need is another bird book on the shelf. But I bought this one with my own money, for it features wonderful discussions and stories about Arizona’s birds. As the author notes, it is a “before and after” book, not a guide to identifying or finding birds. It is for evenings beside the fireplace or summer days under the cooler, when birds themselves are sitting out the heat. The author writes an Arizona Republic column called “Bird is a Verb,” and his prose is enthusiastically wiry and mobile. It will tell you more about the birds you already know, as well as those you may want to meet. Well done, well done. []
Kartchner Caverns: How Two Cavers Discovered and Saved One of the Wonders of the Natural World
By Neil Miller. University of Arizona Press. 215pp. Index. . $15.95.
How do you discover a world-class cave and keep it a secret until it can be protected for the public? This is that story, the discovery of Arizona’s Kartchner Caverns by Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts. The plot involves the Kartchner ranching family, a governor, legislators, snoopy reporters, and dedicated cavers. Much of the story has been hidden until now. Alluring color photos dress the book where mere words would fail to describe the glory of the cave. The author interviewed 37 of the principle players in this intriguing and well-told story. []
Law on the Last Frontier: Texas Ranger Arthur Hill
By S. E. Spinks. Texas Tech University Press. 264pp. Index. . $28.50.
Texan Arthur Hill was a Garrison Ranger serving under Colonel Homer Garrison, who shaped his troops into an elite crime-fighting unit. Hill's territory covered the rugged Big Bend Country of west Texas Working from personal records and interviews, the author vividly re-creates the excitement and danger as Hill, patrolling both sides of the Rio Grande by foot, horseback, and auto, rounded up smugglers, cattle thieves murderers and bad men. Here is an important addition to the 20th century history of a Texas Ranger and of the Big Bend as well. A fine read, which was hard to put down. []
Legacies of Camelot: Stewart and Lee Udall, American Culture, and the Arts
By L. Boyd Finch. University of Oklahoma Press. 194pp. . $24.95.
When an unassuming country boy from St. Johns, Arizona, goes to Washington D.C. as Secretary of the interior under John F. Kennedy, unpredicted things happen. He not only dedicates our nation to preservation of wilderness and endangered species, but he revives culture in the nation’s capital. Whoda thunk? For the first time, insider Boyd Finch brings us the full narrative and force of Stewart Udall’s vision and accomplishments, which prove that a good man can make a difference in politics. Udall and his wife Lee left our nation an indelible legacy of culture and arts. This book should be required reading. []
Life of a Soldier on the Western Frontier
By Jeremy Agnew. . 0pp. Index. . $ .
What was it like to be a soldier serving in the frontier West? Food, quarters, uniform, weapons, routine, pay, duties and drills, on patrol, and off duty: it’s all here in an authoritative, very smoothly written account that offers a sense of the soldier’s lot. For the most part soldiering was hard, dreary work. Although this book covers the entire West, much of it applies to the Southwest. A fascinating and enlightening book. I learned something on every page. []
Literary Nevada: Writings From the Silver State
By Cheryll Glotfelty. University of Nevada Press. 831pp. Index. $29.95.
Forgive me. The title of this book drew a guffaw of laughter and a rude comment about the apparent oxymoron of “literary Nevada.” Those two words seem to crash. But after an hour browsing among the 200 plus selections, I found the anthology interesting, entertaining, and educational. Of particular interest for us in the Southwest are chapters on Las Vegas, contemporary poetry, contemporary fiction, and lessons of the land. The editor has done us a big favor by including first-rate biographies of the authors as well as photos of many. Although many of the authors are not Nevadans per se, they do render the state with affection or at least begrudging respect. Most of the literary terrain is beyond the Southwest, but it covers enough to make it worth your look. Considering the book’s size and range, it is a reading bargain. And the editor did me a favor, because her enterprise has convinced me that there may be a literary Nevada.

Mediating Knowledges: Origins of a Zuni Tribal Museum
By Gwyneira Isaac. University of Arizona Press. 207pp. Index. . $50.00.
Establishing a museum in the pueblo of Zuni was not an easy endeavor. The people didn't want the Anglo concept of a museum, which stored objects and catered to tourists. Instead, they wanted something that met the community's needs and follow Zuni cultural ways. Thus, the concept of an ecomuseum developed -- a museum mainly without walls, indicating that many exhibits and teaching activities would be within the community itself. The A:shiwi A:wan Museum was ultimately established in 1992 with a goal toward integrating all aspects of the comunity such as the natural environment, along with economic and social relationships. []
Medicine Bags and Dog Tags: American Indian Veterans from Colonial Times to the Second Iraq War
By . University of Nebraska Press. 287pp. Index. $45.00.
Here is the story of Native men and women who have participated in wars from colonial times to the second Iraq War. The author suggests that the reasons for enlistment of Native people are varied and complex, but often connected to the relative strength of the warrior tradition within communities. He also shows how Native people have influenced U.S. military tactics, symbolism, and basic training. The story would have been enhanced with illustrations. []
Mustang: the Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West
By Deanne Stillman. Houghton Mifflin Co.. 338pp. . $25.00.
This wonderful volume traces the history of the descendants of the hardy horse of the western plains, which was reintroduced by the Spanish in the 1500s. What a story there is to tell! Each chapter s almost a book i itself and recreates relationships with the American Indian, the United States Army, Buffalo Bill's wild west, and the cowboy and the cattle trade. A chapter is devoted to Comanche, the lone survivor of the Battle of Little Bighorn. Although wounded and scarred, he was petted and cared for and to ease his pain, ed a diet of whiskey and bran mash throughout his life. Hollywood is not forgotten and the fast-paced western introduced man paired with his horse including William Hart and Fritz; Gene Autry and Champion; Roy Rogers and Trigger; and the Lone Ranger and Silver. Finally, the author recounts stories of the massacre of wild horses and the efforts to same them to roam wild and free. Unfortunately, most activity is not in the southwest. []
Names on a Map
By Benjamin Alire Saenz. Harper Perennial. 426pp. . $14.95. F.
In this poetic novel set in El Paso at the height of the Vietnam era, Saenz explores the morality of the Southeast Asian conflict through the eyes of three generations of the Espejo family whose draft-age son struggles with the decision to serve or to flee to Mexico. Saenz vividly recreates the turmoil of the sixties, while penning a stinging indictment of the personal and social consequences of an unjust war. []
New Mexico Territory During the Civil War: Wallen and Evans Inspection Reports, 1862-1863
By Andrew Wallace Evans, Jerry D. Thompson, Henry Davies Wallen. University of New Mexico Press. 304pp. Index. $34.95.
The first thing I notice when reading the inside flaps of the book jacket was that the information on the front flap was partially repeated on the end flap, ending mid-sentence. Someone goofed here. The book contains a collection of Major Henry Davies Wallen's 1862-1863 inspection reports of nine New Mexican forts and Captain Andrew Wallace Evans' inspection of four New Mexican forts in 1863. The results suggest that because Western posts were isolated, they were almost ignored by those involved in the war. This included lack of supplies, poor care of the animals, even absence of sleeping sacks. The book is heavily annotated and includes biographies of individuals mentioned. There are sketches of the various forts but maps and other illustrations would have been welcome. []
New Mexico's Crypto-Jews: Image and Memory
By Cary Herz. University of New Mexico Press. 153pp. . $39.95.
No Settlement, No Conquest: A History of the Coronado Entrada
By Richard Flint. University of New Mexico Press. 358pp. Index. $376.
Thanks to the Spaniards' obsession with record-keeping, historians have long had a pretty good idea of what occurred during the 1539-42 exploration of the present-day Southwest. Now, archaeologist Flint draws on three decades of research and publication (with his wife, Shirley) to explain "how" and "why." Although this book lacks the narrative sweep of Herbert Bolton's classic account, Flint performs an immense service by detailing the background and context of the Coronado expedition and assessing its immediate and enduring legacy. []
Notes on Blood Meridian
By John Sepich. University of Texas Press. 216pp. Index. $45.00.
Sepich has updated, and added two new essays to, his seminal study of Cormac McCarthy's masterwork. Originally published in a small edition a quarter century ago, this essential sourcebook explores the historical and literary inspirations, imagery, themes, motifs, and assorted minutia McCarthy drew upon to paint his inspired portrait of scalphunters in the post-Mexican War borderlands. A "must read" for those, like myself, who consider Blood Meridian the great southwestern novel. []
Place of Refuge, A: Maynard Dixon's Arizona
By . . 0pp. .
Finally settling in Arizona for the last decade of his life Maynard Dixon had traveled and painted throughout the American West supporting himself with commercial art projects and jobs for newspapers and magazines. As his unique style developed and his work became better known he was offered commissions for private and public murals and this recognition brought him sales of individual works. This book is a wonderful display of his Arizona art beginning in 1900 and ranging across four-and-a-half decades. Two essays provide the reader with an understanding of chronology and of Dixon's place in Western Art. Hagerty's chapter titled "Sky and Sandstone" frames his life chronologically while Smith's essay titled "Evading Conflict" helps us analyze the art itself. []
Post-War Dream, The: a Novel
By MItch Cullin. Nan A. Talese/Doubleday. 237pp. . $24.00. F.
Hollis and Debra have retired to a comfortable new home in the Tucson suburbs with pool, gardening space, even a little “house” where Hollis can retreat. Pushed by Debra to begin an autobiography Hollis thinks (more than he writes) and we readers begin to see the outline of their past lives. During the Korean War a soldier Hollis detests was killed near him and a series of events leads him to Texas where that soldier’s family takes him in. Meanwhile, in the present Debra develops breast cancer and her slow decline despite every possible treatment, including experimental drugs, is a counterpoint to Hollis’ memories. Clever dialog (Debra, for example, calls mastectomy “a tonsillectomy for the aged”) and vivid descriptions (of Tucson, of Korea, of Texas) make for a memorable reading experience. []
Cullin tackles themes of love and loss, war and remembrance, and the tragedy of unintended consequences in this bittersweet novel set in a retirement community outside Tucson. Korean War memories and his wife's battle with cancer force Hollis Adams to weigh the past and present, and take painful measure of life's gains and losses. It is a tribute to Cullin's considerable talent that these large themes seamlessly play out in mundane events poetically rendered - a desert snowfall, a golf course stroll, the touch of a hand. Cullin's poignant story captures the soul of a generation not his own. It's a notable achievement for a young writer. []
Pure Goldwater
By John W. Dean, Barry Goldwater, Barry M. Goldwater. Palgrave Macmillan. 399pp. . $27.95.
This is a good read resulting from assembling personal thoughts that Goldwater entered in his personal journal over a period of 50 years. He mused about individuals, events, political positions -- all of it. And he could say what he wanted since these were his private thoughts not being considered for publication. Though this is an important book about a notabl4 Arizonan and American, it has little southwestern content. []
Radiant Curve, A: Poems and Stories
By Luci Tapahonso. University of Arizona Press. 93pp. $35.00. F.
You’re welcome to approach this as the poetry of a Diné (Navajo) woman, but you’ll be short-changing yourself if you limit it to that. Her work, as revealed in the 29 prose and poetry selections here, reaches across designations. Family is foremost and we can all relate. The most revealing and deepest selection was the patriotically powerful “The American Flag” but not for reasons that you’d predict. One, “Festival of the Onion,” tells about “losing” author Scott Momaday, but he is found: “can a man be lost if he accompanied by three women?” And if you need a heartfelt laugh, try “New Boots;” I’m still grinning. The title of this volume, number 64 in the Sun Tracks book series, derives from a line about the Holy People: “We exist within the radiant curve of their care and wisdom” (page 19), as Tapahonso so touchingly reminds us. A bonus is the CD of her reading from this and her two previous books. Take her with you; she’ll make the trip more enjoyable. []
Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond. Volume 2, Water-harvesting Earthworks
By Brad Lancaster. Rainsource Press. 419pp. Index. $35.95.
Tired of seeing rain water from your roof and yard run down the street while you pay more and more to water your shade trees and garden? Brad Lancaster offers a rain barrelful of tested ideas on how to harvest that runoff with berms, basins, diversions, swales, and mulching. The ideas range from simple morning projects to master plans involving major landscaping, but as with most good notions, the key is to start somewhere. This bountiful book, the second in a trilogy of books of consequence for the Southwest, will help us rethink how we obtain and use water. []
Rare Plants of Texas: a Field Guide
By Jackie M. Poole. Texas A&M University Press. 640pp. Index. . $35.00.
Clear, direct, interesting, and useful are good things in a book, and this one is especially good. From an opening sentence , “Texas is a big state,” to the sections on the state’s natural regions, to a cogent explanation of what makes a plant rare, endangered, or threatened with extinction, this book excels. But its centerpiece is coverage of several hundred plants, giving taxonomy, habitat, descriptions, sketches and photos, and maps of their range. The authors ably argue that for these plants to survive, the public as well as scientists must be able to recognize and appreciate them. They admirably introduce this diverse and until now largely hidden segment of Texas’s 5,100 species of plants. New species, nodding yucca (Yucca cernua) and Matt Turner’s aster (Arida mattturneri) have been discovered in the 21st century. []
The book is a botanists dream and one that naturalists, academics and environmental consultants will find enormously valuable. Although, don't count on finding all these plants since many are described for which there are no living samples. That however, does not detract from a magnificent effort to describe rare plants that have or do exist in Texas' eleven natural regions. In addition to sections on history of plant conservation and management and restoration of rare plants, there is a glossary and some 80 pages of references. Included are hundreds of photographs and accurate sketches of plant parts and a map of Texas that highlights the various counties in which each species can be found. []
River Apart, A: the Pottery of Cochiti & Santo Domingo Pueblos
By Valerie K. Verzuh. Museum of New Mexico Press. 185pp. Index. $45.00.
Another fine book from the Museum of New Mexico Press, dealing with the history of pottery from Santo Domingo and Cochiti pueblos a few miles apart on the Rio Grande. We learn that in the beginning the pottery of the two villages was virtually undistinguishible. Hundreds of color photos illustrate the two traditions and how they changed over time. The photographic catalog of collections includes date of various bowls, jars, cups, pitchers, and figures along with measurements. Artist is listed if known. Appendices discuss basic materials, tools, and techniques used for the pottery, a glossary, and time line of events in the Southwest. []
Rock Art of Arizona, The: Art for Life's Sake
By Ekkehart Malotki. Kiva Publishing, Inc.. 194pp. Index. . $35,00.
Malotki, professor emeritus at NAU, has produced during his decades in Arizona more than a dozen scholarly books about Hopi symbolism, oral tradition, rock art, and similar topics. The present volume, while not limited to Hopi by any means, represents a culmination of years spent afield throughout the state with camera in hand. More than 400 color photos are supplemented by substantive texts suggesting how and why rock art is important, first covering those sites dating prior to 1000 B.C., then those sites after that date concluding with a chapter of “interpretation”. []
Salt Warriors: Insurgency on the Rio Grande
By Paul Cool. Texas A&M University Press. 360pp. Index. . $24.95.
Shavetail: a Novel
By Thomas Cobb. Scribner. 366pp. . $25.00.
This gritty historical novel charts the misfortunes of a seventeen-year-old army recruit haunted by tragedy during the Apache wars in southeastern Arizona. The plot, such as it is, follows a small cavalry patrol into Mexico in search of a kidnapped white woman. Heroes are hard to find in the bleak world Cobb creates as his flawed characters wrestle with inner demons and the harsh reality of a landscape where fate is capricious and life dangles by the sheerest thread. This isn't your standard western fare, as Cobb's vivid imagery and fertile imagination underscore the brutality of frontier life. []
Shavetail: n., 1. unbroken Army mule–tail hair removed to warn of possible danger; 2. by extension, a raw Army recruit who may present a danger to other soldiers. There are no heroes in Cobb’s grim account of a company of outcast soldiers in Arizona Territory nearing the end of the so-called Apache Wars. His descriptions are, as my grandfather used to say, spang-on, his dialog rings true, and his characters run the gamut from drunken, devious and manipulative to stupid and uneducated. Told in alternating chapters from three points of view (two officers and the shavetail of the title), the events ring true to frontier life a days ride east of Tucson in the heart of Apacheland.
Silver of the Sierra Madre, The: John Robinson, Boss Shepherd, and the People of the Canyons
By John M. Hart. University of Arizona Press. 237pp. Index. $45.00.
This is a history book written smoothly enough to be read aloud. It tells a balanced story about American mining engineers John Robinson and Alexander Shepherd who grabbed the silver lodes of Batopiles, Mexico, from the 1860s to 1920s. No one should be surprised that the story includes greed, theft, slavery, racism, murder, and double-dealing. It is emblematic that one mine manager’s two sons died of typhoid caused by unhealthy conditions at the mines; you can only imagine how the mines affected those less privileged. If you wonder why Americans are not universally loved in Mexico, this book will offer some clues. The book is more than an interesting chapter in Southwest history—it is a cautionary tale of wider interest. []
Southwestern Indian Jewelry: Crafting New Traditions
By Dexter Cirillo. Rizzoli International Publications, Inc.. 240pp. Index. $55.00.
A perfect complement to her book of the same title, but without a subtitle, published 20 years ago, this volume brings us a new generation of southwestern Native American artists and artisans whose main products are adornment, not painting or sculpture. In all more than 60 men and women are mentioned or briefly profiled, some with photos, and the products of their creative minds and skilled hands are shown in color, often in large format. Excellent book for collectors or anyone with a yen to know more about modern Native American jewelry being produced in the Southwest. []
Spiral Jetta: a Road Trip Through the Land Art of the American West
By Erin Hogan. University of Chicago Press. 180pp. $20.00.
Playing on the name of that earth, sand, and rock art formation created at the edge of Great Salt Lake (Spiral Jetty)Hogan describes her "sabbatical" from the intensity of work and art in a metropolis (Chicago) as she drives to various "art forms" in the West. Writing unaffectedly about her own naivete and the people and events she encounters, we see from a sophisticated point of view such places as Roden Crater in northern Arizona, the Hispanic/Rancher conflict at Marfa, Texas, and Nancy Holt's Sun Tunnels. []
Hogan, a self-proclaimed "recovering art historian," sets out from Chicago in her VW Jetta on a quest to examine the monumental landscape art that sprouted in Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and West Texas in the 1970s and 1980s. For this committed urban dweller, it is also a journey of self-discovery into the unfamiliar world of solitude and self-reliance. The result is a delightful combination of astute art criticism and self-effacing travelogue that demonstrates that in art and life reality seldom conforms to our expectations. []
State Fare: an Irreverent Guide to Texas Movies
By Don Graham. TCU Press. 89pp. $8.95.
The 37 movies listed here may not have been filmed in Texas, but they definitely dealt with all the lusty Texas men,lusty Texas Rangers, lusty cowboys, lusty big ranchers, lusty wildcats, and lusty madams and even schoolmarms. Beginning with silent fare, the pocket-sized book features chapters and critiques about some we all remember: Giant; The Alamo; Bonnie & Clyde; The Last Picture Show, and more. []
Texas Country Singers
By Phillip L. Fry, James Ward Lee. TCU Press. 87pp. $8.95.
Here's lots of Texas in this 6 x 4-inch package, just right to keep in a pocket or purse while shopping for country music. It features biographies of 25 singers -- all Texans -- and include such favorites as Gene Autry, Babara Mandell, Buck Owens,Tex Ritter, and Willie Nelson. Sing along with a country song. []
Texas Rangers, The: Wearing the Cinco Peso, 1821-1900
By Mike Cox. Forge. 478pp. . $25.95.
The Texas Rangers, according to the author, existed for only one purpose and that was to protect the people of Texas and make the state a safer place to live. In the beginning, that meant ridding the state of the Indian population. These were a tough breed of men and an individual didn't want to be on the other side of the law with a ranger in the neighborhood. At first, this was a volunteer force that transitioned to a parliamentary arm of government in 1835, and ultimately to a law enforcement agency in 1874. Though it reads like fiction, a fine bibliography and numerous endnotes show the result of prodigious research which the author uses to tell his story. Those looking for specific incidents will have trouble finding them since there is no index. []
Tohono O'odham and Pimeria Alta, The
By Allan J. McIntyre. Arcadia. 127pp. $19.99.
Trail of the Red Butterfly
By Karl H. Schlesier. Texas Tech University Press. 238pp. . $27.95. F.
Schlesier, a retired anthropologist and author of the 1998 novel "Josanie's War," vividly recreates Plains Indian life and culture as he follows a small band of Cheyenne and Kiowa men and women from eastern Colorado in 1807 to rescue one of their tribesmen taken captive during a raid into northern Mexico. Schlesier's grasp of detail and his ability to depict the Spanish Southwest through he protagonists' eyes make this an engrossing and enlightening read. []
Training Ground, The: Grant, Lee, Sherman, and Davis in the Mexican War 1846-1848
By Martin Dugard. Little, Brown and Co.. 446pp. Index. . $29.99.
Tucson was a Railroad Town: The Days of Steam in the Big Burg on the Main Line
By William D. Kalt III. VTD Rail Publishing. 345pp. Index. . $54.50.
Unfinished Masterpiece: The Harlem Renaissance Fiction of Anita Scott Coleman
By Bruce A. Glasrud. Texas Tech University Press. 189pp. $22.95.
Coleman, a black school-marmish young woman, lived in New Mexico when about half of these tales were written (1920s), but locale is not her subject, nor is it particularly important. Instead, she writes of people, usually in the black (or as she would have said, Negro) community, and almost always her tales relate to the connections, or lack thereof, to the white community. Simple stories with powerful, almost allegorical, lessons, a few of them with obvious connections to our Southwest.
Viva Chocolate!
By Marilyn Noble. Rio Nuevo Publishers. 80pp. Index. . $12.95.
Oh my, this sinful book is a chocolate lover's delight. Easier to take lately, since the latest health news is two Hershey's dark chocolate kisses a day for good health. How 'bout steaks rubbed with chile and cocoa powder and served with "Smokin' Hot Chile" made with helpings of cocoa, chile and chipotle? Or, one can wake up to Chocolate Chip Pecan Pancakes drizzled with warm chocolate syrup. Had enough? -- not until one tries a Grilled Chocolate-Peanut Butter Sandwich with a glass of milk. []
Weeds in South Texas and Northern Mexico: a Guide to Identification
By J. H. Everitt, Christopher R. Little, Robert I . Lonard. Texas Tech University Press. 222pp. . $19.95.
This is a welcome addition to books about less charismatic and more common plants. One page is devoted to each plant, with a color photograph, detailed description and information, especially related to agriculture and cattle ranching. It would be nice to see more books of this kind for other parts of the Southwest. []
Where Clouds Are Formed: Poems
By Ofelia Zepeda. University of Arizona Press. 21pp. $14.95. F.
In forty poems Ofelia Zepeda captivates us with her desert homeland, the tension between city and reservation life, and the ironies of living in two cultures, Native American and modern American. She writes with subtle description and compelling insight. One moment my favorites are “An O’odham at Yosemite,” “Blacktop,” and “The Way to Leave Your Illness,” and the next moment I hang on “Landscape” with its lines “She was in constant contact with the earth. / With each shuffle she pushed the earth along, with each step she dragged time along.” Then I reread “The Other World,” with the refrain “When we get back to / our world, can we rent a video…?” The poet’s first world? The desert “of sand, rocks, mesquite, / rattlesnakes, lizards, and little rain.” This volume, number 63 in the Sun Tracks series, is sure to bring you a smile and new thought. []
Zepeda’s poetry frequently alludes to her Tohono O’odham heritage but her themes are universal and we feel/see them as if they mirrored our own lives: children, celebrations, plastic lawn chairs, a hospital I.C.U., the world, in fact, in a few words. []
Wolves at Our Door
By J.P.S. Brown. University of New Mexico Press. 295pp. . $26.95. F.
Jim Kane, the protagonist of Brown's acclaimed 1970 novel, returns to do battle with a ruthless Sonoran landowner enmeshed in the drug trade and determined to extend his empire at the expense of anyone who stands in his way. Kane, now a seventy-five-year-old grandfahter, holds fast to the centuries-old code of honor that settled the southwestern borderlands as he rides (and flies) in defense of family and neighbors. Nobody knows and writes about this country better than Brown, who is in top form in this action-packed adventure solidly grounded in the world he loves. []
Zuni Origins: Toward a New Synthesis of Southwestern Archaeology
By David A. Gregory, David R. Wilcox. University of Arizona Press. 517pp. . $75.00.
Too technical for the non-anthropologist reader, this hefty volume pulls together 22 papers by experts. The cumulative impact is significant in that it pushes our knowledge of Zuni culture back in time by several millenia BC. []
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