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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.

Railroad Noir: The American West at the End of the Twentieth Century
By Linda Grant Nieman. Indiana University Press. 151 pp. $39.95.
This is a memoir of the author’s years, 1979-1999, working on the railroad as a brakeman, switchman, and conductor throughout the Southwest. Armed with her Ph.D. in English, she was an unlikely candidate to be one of the first women hired. “Noir” suggests the themes of romance, night, darkness, and grit, all evident in these remembrances. This goes beyond a description of railroad life or personal observations: it embodies a sense of the isolation brought on by modern technology. The book is well-written, honest, and insightful and enhanced by dramatic photographs and a glossary of railroad terminology. []
The coffee-table book is not so much about the Southern Pacific Railroad as it is a very personal biography of Linda Grant Nieman, who served twenty years as a brakewoman mainly out of Salinas and San Jose, California. Included is a gallery of photographs of railroad sites west of the Mississippi. []

Rainbow Bridge to Monument Valley: Making the Modern Old West
By Thomas J. Harvey. University of Oklahoma Press. 237 pp. Index. $34.95.
Harvey finds much to contemplate in the roughly forty-five miles of scenic desert and picturesque spires along the Arizona-Utah border. Beginning with the Navajo concept of sacred homeland, he explains how Rainbow Bridge "discoverers" Byron Cummings and William Douglass, adventurer and writer Clyde Kluckhohn, novelist Zane Grey, filmmaker John Ford, conservationist David Brower, and others have used this stark landscape as a canvas on which to paint a mythic West as their response to twentieth-century modernization. Although intended for an academic audience, Harvey's clearly written and tightly argued book will appeal to anyone interested in popular culture and how we affix meaning to place. []

Randy Lopez Goes Home: A Novel
By Rudolfo Anaya. University of Oklahoma Press. 168 pp. $19.95.
Top Pick
Randy Lopez, hoping to recapture some of the Hispanic heritage which he has lost among the gringos, returns to Aqua Bendita, a tiny village in northern New Mexico. He yearns for Sofia, a goddess like figure who is inaccessible across the river. He meets various people from his past; no one remembers him, but wise ageless Unica agrees to help him build a bridge across the river. This allegory becomes the framework for musings on big questions about life, death, time, purpose, but ultimately it is affirmative. The concept, the writing, the setting, the characters, and the universality all make this a moving short work. []
After a lifetime away, Randy Lopez’s three original names have been lost to memory when he returns to Agua Bendita, his birth-village in northern New Mexico. He comes to understand that he must rebuild a bridge that will allow him to cross the raging river and reach the woman he has loved for as long as he can remember. Anaya’s many-themed allegory reminds us about both the need and the necessity of connecting people and cultures across time, and reminds this reviewer of the power of his wondrous first novel, Bless Me, Ultima, published nearly four decades ago. []

Raptors of the West: Captured in Photographs
By Kate Davis. Mountain Press Publishing Company. 242 pp. Index. $30.00.
Even with good binoculars few of us can see hawks, eagles, owls, and falcons as clearly as on the pages of this book. With 400 exceptional color photos of birds on the wing and perch in the wild, we gain new respect for the beauty of birds, and the tenacity of photographers who specialize in their portraits. The range and beauty of birds here is astounding and marvelous. A special section on Southwest specialties show the crested caracara, elf owl, Harris’s hawk, and others that range only here, but many of the others shown in the book --- kestrels, harriers, owls, golden eagles, sharp-shinned hawks, and others --- live in or travel through the Southwest and are familiar to those of us who live here, though we’ll seldom if ever see them as “close-up” as we can in this gorgeous book. Of special notice is a sequence of a peregrine collapsing its wings and launching a dive. Wow. []

Rawhide Ranger, Ira Aten: Enforcing Law on the Texas Frontier
By Bob Alexander. University of North Texas Press. 452 pp. Index. $32.95.

Nineteenth-century Texas Ranger Ira Aten, featured in the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco, is the subject of this in-depth biography.
Red Power Rising: The National Indian Youth Council and the Origins of Native Activism
By , Bradley G. Shreve. University of Oklahoma Press. 274 pp. Index. $34.95.
It is generally believed that the American Indian Movement also known as Red Power, had its beginning in 1969 with the occupation of Alcatraz. Actually, it had its beginning in1961, when Indian students from all over the United States met in Gallup, New Mexico and formed the National Indian Youth Council (NIYA). Its concerns were tribal sovereignty, treaty rights, cultural preservation, and self determination. And these goals have remained through the years. Over the years, it adapted to change but continues working toward the same goals projected by its founders and occupies permanent offices in Albuquerque.


Reining in the Rio Grande: People, Land, and Water
By Mary Black, G. Emlen Hall, Fred Phillips. University of New Mexico Press. 262 pp. Index. $34.95.
This is a terrific history and summary of the uses and abuses of the waters of the Rio Grande river and the century of conflicts among people, communities, states and other governmental agencies involved. The authors–a hydrologist, a lawyer, and an anthropologist–provide a thorough background before tackling the convoluted tale of skullduggery, lawsuits, agreements, and such that have brought the river to its current (no pun intended) perilous state. One horrible, possible future would be river-as-pipeline from Cochiti Pueblo, south of Santa Fe, to the border. Their final chapter, “The Future of an Old River,” while not proclaiming total disaster, does not leave much room for hope. []

Rightful Place
By Amy Hale Auker. Texas Tech University Press. 122 pp. $24.95.
If you haven’t yet met Amy Hale Auker, hold out your hand and reach for this poetic book of ranch vignettes about being a working cowboy’s wife. With lines like “I am not the only person who admires this land, but I am the one who is here, being touched by it, with cricket song all around me” (p.118) or “All evening long, the rodeo arena was a glittering snow globe, the tall lights reflecting off the dust stirred up by men, cattle, and horses” (p. 58), Auker is funny, bold, curious, real. A ranch is her rightful place, her family, and she gently tells why in some of the best prose to ever ride a page. []

By Thomas Fox Averill. University of New Mexico Press. 206 pp. $24.95.

The author traveled the route chronicled in the song “Tennessee Stud” for this fictionalized account.
Route 66 in Arizona
By Joe Sonderman. Arcadia Publishing. 127 pp. $21.99.
If you are old enough, or listen to the oldies radio stations, you surely know how to “get your kicks on route 66,” and with this book you can relive photographically the Arizona stretch of it by viewing more than 200 interesting b/w photos with good captions. []

Route 66: Traveler's Guide and Roadside Companion
By Tom Snyder. Griffin. 208 pp. $15.99.
Revised and updated for the third time, this handy guide with detailed maps will take the driver from Chicago to Santa Monica over 2,278 miles along or near Route 66. A second section, “Roadside Companion” records historical vignettes along “the mother road.” []
Revised version of a very good roadguide that lets you plan a trip where you “can get your kicks,” as the song goes.

By Margaret Randall. University of New Mexico Press. 136 pp. $21.95.
Although most of Margaret Randall’s reflective poems in this volume are about ruins of ancient civilizations around the globe, at least half a dozen feature our Southwest. In “Nankoweap” she claims victory on her cliffy climb to the granaries. In “Hovenweep” she asks what forces pull us to such places and she is renewed, remembering that “I am the artist” as her hands trace the contours of “mysterious towers… on overlapping folds of time.” My favorite, “Before They Changed the Rules,” closes with “I am doing my best / not to mourn Lascaux / but be grateful / I made it to Betatakin in time.” []

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