Southwest Books of the Year
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Clicking on a book cover will search for the book in the catalog. If it is not part of our collection, you may request it by clicking on the Can't Find It link. An icon indicates if the book is chosen by a panelist as one of the year's best.
- By Mark Klett, Gregory McNamee. Radius Books. 104 pp. $75.00.
- A collection of black and white photographs by the artist as portraits of these prominent "desert citizens."
- San Juan Legacy: Life in the Mining Camps
- By Duane A. Smith, John L . Ninnemann. University of New Mexico Press. 163 pp. Index. $24.95.
- This nostalgic look at Colorado’s San Juan region’s mining camps from 1860-1914 blends local histories with John Ninnemann’s photos. For us who have forgotten or never knew, the book describes schools, mines and miners, red-light girls, doctors, churches, and domestic life. The good old days seem a long time ago and almost beyond comprehension. [ ]
- Santa Fe Ghosts: Mystery, History, Truth
- By Susan Blumenthal. Schiffer Publishing Ltd.. 224 pp. Index. $14.99.
- The author recounts the results of her investigations into ghost stories in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
- Santa Fe: History of an Ancient City
- By David Grant Noble. Santa Fe: School for Advanced Research Press. 134 pp. Index. $19.95.
- In 2010 Santa Fe will celebrate its 400th anniversary, and its history is rich and bountiful. This revised and expanded edition of an earlier book presents eleven fully illustrated chapters by experts who know the town as well as love it. Marc Simmons narrates a chapter on the Santa Fe Trail. Joseph P. Sánchez details the Pueblo Revolt. Frances Levine pays tribute to the Palace of Governors. Stephen S. Post explains the Native American history prior to Juan de Oñate’s establishment of the first Spanish colony in 1598. Other chapters cover its founding, acequia architecture, eighteenth century society, and the town under Mexican rule. The volume is an inviting and informative general introduction to one of North America’s most fascinating cities. [ ]
- Scarecrow, The
- By Michael Connelly. Little, Brown & Co.. 419 pp. $27.99.
- (fiction) A veteran crime reporter’s investigation of a murder turns up one surprise after another. First, he becomes convinced that the accused gangbanger didn’t do it, then he comes across a previous murder that seems suspiciously similar. He doesn’t know it, but his Internet searches have alerted a deadly predator in cyberspace who quickly knows all about him and has him in his sights. A former journalist whose Harry Bosch police procedural novels regularly vault him to the top of best seller lists, the award-winning author has developed a new and engaging antihero protagonist to explore the heart of darkness in the West. This fast-paced thriller is Michael Connelly at his best. [ ]
- Scarecrow, The
- By Michael Connelly. Simon & Schuster. 448 pp. $27.99.
- Veteran crime novelist Connelly is at the top of his game in this fast-paced story of a pink-slipped Los Angeles Times reporter on the trail of a serial killer. The search takes him to Las Vegas and finally to Phoenix, where he steps into the world of computer hacking and identity theft. Connelly not only keeps readers' attention riveted to the page, but he also provides a sober and informed commentary on the dying newspaper business. [ ]
A veteran crime reporter’s investigation of a murder turns up one surprise after another. First, he becomes convinced that the accused gangbanger didn’t do it, then he comes across a previous murder that seems suspiciously similar. He doesn’t know it, but his Internet searches have alerted a deadly predator in cyberspace who quickly knows all about him and has him in his sights. A former journalist whose Harry Bosch police procedural novels regularly vault him to the top of best seller lists, the award-winning author has developed a new and engaging antihero protagonist to explore the heart of darkness in the West. This fast-paced thriller is Michael Connelly at his best. Readers who enjoy Michael Connelly might also like to try Robert Crais and T. Jefferson Parker. [ ]
- Searching for My Destiny
- By George Blue Spruce, Deanne Durrett. University of Nebraska Press. 336 pp. Index. $45.00.
- Traveling between two cultures, first-Native-American dentist George Blue Spruce, Jr., elevated health care in the Southwest pueblos and brought national attention to First-American health care issues.
- Secret War in El Paso, The: Mexican Revolutionary Intrigue, 1906-1920
- By Charles H. Harris, Louis R. Sadler. University of New Mexico Press. 504 pp. Index. $37.50.
- This 500-page history of El Paso during the Mexican Revolution has been put together using eighty thousand pages of previously classified FBI documents. It includes a marvelous cast of real-life characters and adds new information t what is known about the Revolution. it should make a good research tool for those interested in the history of the area. [ ]
- Server Down
- By J.M. Hayes. Poisoned Pen Press. 200 pp. $24.95.
- Tucson resident Hayes brings his hero of four previous mysteries, Mad Dog, to Tucson where he intends to watch the world-famous Yaqui Easter ceremony. Almost immediately ripped off by a stranger who kills a cop, the Dog finds himself the suspect and the entire TPD after him with orders that feel like “shoot on sight”. Meanwhile, back at his home in Kansas, his house has been leveled so it is pretty clear someone is after him, but who? and why? [ ]
- In his fourth "Mad Dog and Englishman" mystery, Hayes brings one of his eponymous heroes from Kansas to Tucson, where Mad dog becomes the prime suspect in a murder at the Pascua Easter ceremony. Meanwhile, someone lobs a grenade into his house. With the police close on their heels, Mad Dog and his neice, a UA law student, pursue the real villain into the world of on-line gaming. Readers willing to suspend belief are in for a wild ride. [ ]
- Shadows at Dawn: A Borderlands Massacre and the Violence of History
- By Karl Jacoby. Penguin Press. 358 pp. Index. $32.95.
- Add the illuminating multiple perspectives of Rashomon to the taut psychology in The Oxbow Incident, and we have Karl Jacoby’s superb study of a little known 1871 “lynch-mob” massacre of Apache women and children in southern Arizona. In four views we are shown four competing cultures—Anglo, Hispanic, Apache, and O’odham. Two of them had lived in the territory for centuries, two were new-comers, and each had its own heritage and agenda. For example, the Apaches took anyone’s horses as they would wildland game and didn’t consider it to be theft. The O’odham disliked warfare, but were spirited and capable warriors who fought to save the tribe, not to gain another group’s possessions. Jacoby weaves clear pictures of each culture before the massacre at Camp Grant, and then shares each group’s memory of the aftermath. His research is original, laser-sharp, and highly illuminating. Shadows at Dawn is model of how to go beyond the narrative of an event and explain its reasons and consequences. If 2009 has a “must-read,” this is it. [ ]
- On April 30, 1871, in the early morning twilight, a group of 146 men from Tucson surrounded an Indian village and attacked, killing 144 Indians without suffering a single loss of life among themselves. Was this a victory of settlers over bloodthirsty Indians? No, the village was on a designated reservation for peaceful Indians near an Army camp. The attackers were vigilantes acting secretly and their victims were almost all sleeping women and children. The attack sparked national outrage. President Grant declared it “purely murder” and ordered a federal investigation. In this remarkable new look at the Camp Grant Massacre, historian Karl Jacoby examines what happened from the point of view of each of the participating groups - the Anglo-Americans, the Hispanics, the Tohono O’odham and the Apaches - and thereby transcends the event itself and illuminates the broader history of the Southwest in a revealing and moving way.
Readers who wish to explore this subject further might also be interested in two other exceptional recent books that explore other aspects of this part of our history:
* Big Sycamore Stands Alone: The Western Apaches, Aravaipa, and the Struggle for Place, by Ian W. Record;
* War of a Thousand Deserts: Indian Raids and the U.S.-Mexican War, by Brian DeLay [ ]
- Shadows of Death
- By David Sundstrand. Minotaur Books. 336 pp. $25.95.
- In this novel, BLM Ranger and desert rat Frank Flynn is called in to investigate the deaths of two men who had been illegally killing burros and other wildlife in the California desert. They died by gunshots from a hunting rifle fired from a considerable distance. Then the FBI shows up. They’re trying to connect the dots on a number of other murders of people who had similarly abused animals in particularly heinous ways and met deaths that mirrored what they had inflicted. The FBI and Frank both can visualize those dots leading next to the coming grand opening nearby of an exclusive game ranch where wealthy would-be hunters can pay big bucks for opportunities to bag big game, success guaranteed. As someone whose sympathies have long lain with the birds, bighorns and bobcats, Frank can see that this is going to be a challenging case in more ways than one. By looking at this situation from many perspectives, Sundstrand provides his readers with an opportunity to explore how pursuit of good causes can go awry - for people on every side of an issue. However the challenges to the writer in doing this are formidable too. I felt that he didn’t quite pull it off this time, but deserves appreciation for a good effort. This would also be a good book for book groups, classes or friends to take up: the discussions could be very interesting. Readers may be interested also in reading David Sundstrand’s previous novel, Shadow of the Raven, which was a Southwest Book of the Year in 2007. [ ]
- Shimmer, The
- By David Morrell. Vanguard Press. 352 pp. $25.95.
- In this novel, strange lights shimmering in the desert night draw disparate groups of people to the West Texas desert, with explosive results.
- Shine Boy
- By Annie Galvez, Jose Galvez. Shine Boy Media. 93 pp. $19.95.
- Galvez provides about a dozen short memories of his growing up in Tucson matched with excellent photos he took later in life after he became a professional photographer. Good, clean black and white images that relate perfectly to the brief texts displaying nicely what Tucson was like 40 or so years ago.
- Autobiographical anecdotes from the author's Tucson childhood are supplemented by his photographs from Latino communities across the United States.
- Shootout at Miracle Valley
- By William R. Daniel. Wheatmark. 203 pp. $19.95.
- A contribution to the story of how differences in race, religion and culture led to a deadly confrontation between members of a religious group from Chicago and law enforcement officers in southeast Arizona which made national news headlines in 1982.
- Simon J. Ortiz: a Poetic Legacy of Indigenous Continuance
- By Susan Berry Brill de Ramírez, Evelina Zuni Lucero. University of New Mexico Press. 440 pp. Index. $27.95.
- Simon Ortiz is a gentle,friendly, and unassuming individual who turns out to be a giant in the field of indigenous literature. This book celebrates his life and literary legacy. He is from Acoma pueblo and early on worked in the uranium mines, served in the U. S. Army and attended the University of New Mexico. He has taught in many places and recently returned to the United States following a number of years at the University of Toronto and is currently professor of English at ASU. This volume contains a number of in-depth interviews along with critical discussion and tributes to the poet by M.Scott Momaday, Joy Harjo, Laura Tohe, Leslie Marmon Silko and many more. Ortiz has some two dozen publications to his credit with more to come in the future. [ ]
- Snake Dreams: A Charlie Moon Mystery
- By James D. Doss. St. Martin's Minotaur. 308 pp. $24.95.
- Doss almost becomes a character in the Charlie Moon mysteries (this is the 13th) because it is often the narrative voice that provides the wisecracks and even the insights that help Charlie solve the mysteries. This time out we find Charlie getting more serious about FBI Special Agent Lila Mae McTeague and Charlie’s aunt Daisy having visions, doesn’t she always, of dead people. Doss’s tales are too cute for some mystery buffs, but if you like your danger spiced with humor and in the beautiful setting of the Ute Reservation in southwestern Colorado, this is your cup of tea.
- This latest entry in the Charlie Moon mystery series finds the Native American rancher/sleuth's marriage hopes complicated by murder.
- Some of the Dead are Still Breathing: Living in the Future
- By Charles Bowden. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 243 pp. $24.00.
- Bowden concludes the trilogy he began with "Blood Orchid" and "Blues for Cannibals" with this rumination on what it takes to keep moving in a world bent on self-destruction. The answer may surprise some of Bowden's fans, but this adrenaline-powered trip through desert and ocean, life and literature, love and sex, is worth taking. [ ]
- This book could have been titled “The Biology of Desire, Southwest Style.” Or “The Hunger Artist Chows Down.” Or “Looking for Life in All the Wrong Places.” This is Bowden raging to live in a dying world, a gifted writer saying “yes” to life – “I wanted to say yes, shout yes, be yes” (page 161). You ask, what is the book about? Merely life, death, and all between. It is not a book for the timid, but hey, if you’re still breathing, maybe you can still feel serpents and oceans, canyons and love. One thread through Bowden’s work reappears here as thick as hawser: “I will never forget the dread… of living my life and yet having my life pass me by” (page 59). He is a messenger from the heart of darkness; the book is like dancing with a dervish. He portrays a world where relationships are like interviews and sex is as casual as conversation, but one wonders if this lifestyle is as affirmative as the author claims. This is the third volume of a trilogy that includes Blood Orchid and Blues for Cannibals -- seldom have words performed so well on a page.
- Spanish Language of New Mexico and Southern Colorado, The: a Linguistic Atlas
- By Garland D. Bills, Neddy A. Vigil. University of New Mexico. 383 pp. Index. $80.00.
- An academic milestone, this scholarly volume presents results of the first large-scale systematic linguistic survey of a unique form of Spanish found in New Mexico and southern Colorado. One of the world’s major languages, Spanish became the first European language used by residents of land now in the southwestern United States, in 1598. Through early influences of native peoples of the Caribbean and Mexico, its subsequent isolation in the far northern extremity of Spanish America, its later contact with American English and, more recently, with the modern Spanish of Mexican immigrants, this dialect has become a linguist’s dream. It’s impact can be appreciated by recognizing that Anglos represented less than 10% of New Mexico’s population in 1880 and did not become a majority in that state until the 1940s. To this day, Spanish and English continue to influence each other and the cultures of the American Southwest. Written for a broad audience, this book offers a special insight into the cultural diversity of the Southwest. [ ]
- Strip, The: a Novel
- By E. Duke Vincent. Bloomsbury. 320 pp. $25.00.
- A veteran of such TV series as Vega$, Dynasty and Melrose Place, Vincent gives us a page-turner set in 1980 with the fingers of The Mob doing some dirty work in Las Vegas.
- Strong Enough to Die: a Caitlin Strong Novel
- By Jon Land. Forge. 351 pp. $24.95.
- Land puts a new spin on the thriller genre by evoking 19th-century Texas Ranger lore in the fight against 21st-century global terrorism. Fifth-generation ranger Caitlin Strong teams up with a man she wrongly sent to prison to thwart a plot involving a U.S. security company and Mexican mafia that reaches from the Chihuahuan desert to the Middle East. Hard-boiled characters, a fast-paced plot, and the imaginative use of one of the West's iconic symbols make this an exciting and satisfying addition to Land's long list of bestsellers. [ ]
- Three separate story lines converge in this contemporary page-turner. The central figure is an appealing ex-Texas Ranger, a woman, a fifth generation Ranger who has left the service after a traumatic shoot-out. There is more than one villain, the worst of whom is an extremely evil and powerful man, who runs a “security” company for the U.S. [think, Blackwater and Iraq and you won’t be far off]. Land controls his characters, the action [many many deaths by gunfire] and moves everything along at a fast clip. [ ]
- Sunbonnet, The: An American Icon in Texas
- By Rebecca Jumper Matheson. Texas Tech University Press. 240 pp. $29.95.
- Here is a charming history of the sunbonnet, once the icon for women trodding overland during the great migration to California in the mid-800s. But there is more to the story. The author tells us that Texas women treasured their bonnets well into the 1940s. Ah, yes. Perfect white skin was the reason since the bonnet shaded both the face and the neck. Ad did you know there were two kinds, the poke and the slat? They kept these bonnets pristinely clean, but problems arose with the starch used for a perky stand up shade -- sometimes little varmits managed to find a good meal with the starch. There are plenty of photos, oral interviews and patterns for creating one's own bonnet. [ ]
- By , Margaret Murray. WriteWords Press. 358 pp. $14.95.
- Murray is good with dialog and the details of behavior and character that turn the people in her novel into believable figures. Readers with a need for realism in their fiction will, however, find much to criticize as the story leaps across millenia mixing modern San Francisco with the Chaco Canyon culture known to anthro-archaeologists as Anasazi.
- Sunflowers / Girasoles
- By Gabriela Baeza Ventura, Gwendolyn Zepeda, Alisha Ann Guadalupe Gambino. Piñata Books. $15.95.
- 7-year-old Marisol learns how to garden from her grandfather. When he gives her a bag of sunflower seeds, Marisol plans a surprise for her neighbors and schoolmates.
- Superstition Wilderness Trails East: Hikes, Horse Rides, and History
- By Jack Carlson, Elizabeth Stewart. Clear Creek Publishing. 352 pp. Index. $16.95.
- Forty treks in the eastern Superstition Wilderness area are described with photos, topo maps and background information.
- Sweet Nata: Growing up in Rural New Mexico
- By Gloria Zamora. University of New Mexico Press. 230 pp. $24.95.
- A memoir of growing up in a traditional Hispanic environment during the 1950s and 1960s in Mora and Corrales, New Mexico, with homage to the contributions of parents, grandparents and extended family.
- Sweet Smell of Home, The: the Life and Art of Leonard F. Chana
- By Barbara Chana, Leonard F. Chana, Susan Lobo. University of Arizona Press. 176 pp. $21.95.
- You want to know about ageless life in the desert? Read this. It’s a joyous passport to the Tohono O’odham Nation west of Tucson, Arizona. The paintings and drawings of native artist Leonard Chana jump with life. I’m having several of the vibrant, evocative pages framed for hanging; they are pure delight. My favorite is “Youth: Endless Time.” Or maybe it’s the untitled figure 41, showing a man and his son eating watermelon under their ramada. Chana is the most cheerful painter of desert people since Ted DeGrazia. And the text? It bounces with the talk of real people, ones you’ll enjoy knowing. [ ]