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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.

Before the End, After the Beginning
By Dagoberto Gilb. Grove Press. 194 pp. $24.00.
Small moments convey large meaning in these finely crafted stories set mainly in Austin, El Paso, Albuquerque, and Los Angeles. A stroke victim contemplaes the casual kindnesses of his caregivers, a small boy experiences the giddy joy of his birthday, and working-class men feel their way through a world circumscribed by race and class. Gilb pays artful homage to courage and resilience as he steers a deft course through the human heart. []

Begging for Vultures: New and Selected Poems: 1994-2009
By Lawrence Welsh. University of New Mexico Press. 198 pp. $21.95.
Lawrence Welsh writes poems about men with calloused hands and women who buy their own beer. Here 48 new poems join favored entries from Skull Highway, Rusted Steel and Bordertown Starts, and four of his other books. His poetry is spare, as if words are hard-earned dollar bills or swings of a blunt mallet. If you’ve driven a clunker, asked a barkeep if you could sweep out the place for a drink, or hitchhiked from Tucson to Tularosa, you’ve already met Welsh’s landscape of rusty wrecking yards, side-street juke joints, and dust-blown asphalt. In “Ramon’s” we find “a rolling door / a pot of joe / a crescent wrench / to turn” and in “Old Crow” we hear “… rhymes / dance in / their throats….” My favorite is “Coal Trane,” a tribute to “…a guy / snuffed out / last night / by smoothie Wilson / in the el paso / switching yard ….” The ragged edges and ironies cut 48 ways from Thursday. []

Bird on Fire: Lessons From the World's Least Sustainable City
By Andrew Ross. Oxford University Press. 312 pp. Index. $27.95.
Ross, a journalist with a dozen books to his credit, creates a verbal portrait of Phoenix, Arizona. In chapters with clever titles like “Gambling at the Water Table” and “The Sun Always Rises” he lays out what he has discovered from his research, plus interviews with more than 200 Phoenicians, including politicians, community leaders and “the man on the street.” That the arid Southwest is unsustainable from the point of view of available water will not shock many, but clever writing makes this book interesting, if depressing, reading. []
Ross, a professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University, uses Phoenix as the "canary in the mine," arguing that if progress toward sustainable living can happen here it can happen anywhere. We all know the obstacles: urban sprawl, aridity, boomer mentality, and short-sighted politicians. But Ross finds oases of hope on farms, in inner city arts organizations, among border activists and neighborhood organizers, and on the Gila River Reservation, where tribe members have recaptured their water rights. The solutions to Phoenix's imposing problems, he suggests, lie not in technology but with social and political policies that empower the environmentally disenfranchised. This is an important book for lay readers and policymakers alike. []

Birding Hot Spots of Central New Mexico
By Barbara Hussey, Judy Liddell. Texas A&M University Press. 203 pp. Index. $24.95.
With this dandy guide to observing birds from the Sandia Mountains near Albuquerque to Bosque del Apache on the Rio Grande, novices and experts alike can find and enjoy New Mexico’s marvelous birds. []

Black Cowboys of the Old West: True, Sensational, and Little-Known Stories from History
By Tricia Martineau Wagner. TwoDot. 179 pp. Index. $14.95.
This fascinating account of the lives of ten black cowboys is thoroughly researched and clearly presented in an attempt to correct the assumption that all cowboys were white when in fact the percentage of black cowboys may be as high as 25%. Working cowboys, rodeo competitors, and even one cowboy who was a former rustler are covered, as well as Bose Ikard, the model for Josh Deets in Lonesome Dove. Highly recommended []

Black Thunder: An Ella Clah Novel
By Aimee Thurlo, David Thurlo. Forge. 352 pp. $24.99.
Black Thunder, an Ella Clah Novel by Aimee & David Thurlo.
Navajo Tribal Police Investigator Clah is at it again. The Thurlo team keeps finding new ways to bedevil her, including her junior partner Justine Goodluck. When dead and buried bodies begin to turn up on the eastern edge of the Big Rez, and just over the line in New Mexico as well, finding out what is going on takes some delicate negotiating between tribal police and New Mexico cops. As if work stress weren’t enough, back at home her teenage daughter is acting up (teenage, need we say more?) and her mother, often accused of being a bruja, seems to be stirring up trouble of her own. []

Blood Desert: Witnesses, 1820-1880
By Renny Golden. University of New Mexico Press. 76 pp. $16.95.
Poet Golden chooses carefully twenty-one events/incidents in New Mexico history and provides poetic images to illuminate life in the middle of the nineteenth century. Many of the major players are here: Lamy, Geronimo, Crook and Billy, but she doesn’t forget Sister Blandina, Padre Martinez and other figures well-known to the state and region. Exciting, provocative and satisfying are three adjectives that fit perfectly. []

Border Junkies: Addiction and Survival on the Streets of Juarez and El Paso
By Scott Comar. University of Texas Press. 214 pp. $24.95.
This is a first-person narrative of starting on drugs at 16 in the northeast and continuing as an addicted user, mostly on the El Paso/Juárez border, until 2003. Now working on a doctorate at UTEP, Comar’s narrative does not sensationalize his tale. He simply describes what life is like once you’ve given up pretense of being a normal kid/man and accepted life on the street. Making a living mostly by panhandling, his best moments were often simply finding a place to stay, sometimes for a few weeks but usually only a few days or just overnight. []

Border Lords, The
By T. Jefferson Parker. Dutton. 373 pp. $26.95.
ATF agent Charlie Hood confronts evil personified in this adrenaline-fueled story that sprawls across the U.S.-Mexico border, from Tijuana to Nogales, where a rogue undercover cop battles his own demons and Mexican drug cartels. The University of Arizona, Sabino Canyon, and Hotel Congress make cameo appearances as Parker flexes the narrative chops that have made him a three-time Edgar Award winner. []

Border Runs Through It, A: Journeys in Regional History and Folklore
By Jim Griffith. Rio Nuevo Publishers. 128 pp. $17.95.
Top Pick
Everyone calls him Big Jim (except perhaps for his diminutive wife, Loma). I know one person who calls him, affectionately, “Large James.” His presence in research and literature of the lore and folk-life of Southern Arizona and the entire Sonoran Desert region has been as large as the name. Griffith was host of a long-running series of vignettes on Tucson’s public TV station, KUAT. Here he takes those snippets about history, cultures, places (and place names), food and everythingelse human, and turn’s them into delightful short essays. The indefatigable David “Fitz” Fitzimmons provides visual spice with his trademark cartoons, including, on page 33, one of Big Jim himself. In case you weren’t paying attention, let it be known far and wide that Jim was one of nine recipients this year of the NEAs National Heritage Fellowship. []
A delightful read as folklorist, “Big Jim,” takes us to his favorite haunts in Southern Arizona and Sonora. There are wonderful legends and real history, sights to see, even some of the more colorful graveyards. We are taken on a visit to Sonoran missions, and learn something about the cultures that make Arizona a special place. He introduces us to a variety of Southwestern characters and teases our palates with a potpourri of chilies and tamales in numerous combinations. It is about time we had a GOOD Arizona border story and this is it. Each chapter is enhanced with delightful illustrations by cartoonist, David Fitzsimmons []

Bronco Bill Gang, The
By John Tanner, Karen Tanner. University of Oklahoma Press. 320 pp. Index. $29.95.
The Tanners leave no stone unturned in their meticulously researched account of the careers of William E. "Bronco Bill" Walters and his gang of rustlers and train robbers in Arizona and New Mexico at the turn of the twentieth century. Walters, who spent nearly two decades of his life behind bars, was hardly the stuff of legend, but legends grew up around him nonetheless. In patiently separating fact from fiction, the authors provide a revealing view of criminal activity and law enforcement in the waning days of the Wild West. []

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