Bruce Dinges' Picks

Crazy Brave: A Memoir
In this slender memoir, poet Harjo describes an Oklahoma childhood marred by poverty and abuse, her rebellious years at a Santa Fe Indian school during the 1960s and her search for identity as a single mother enrolled at the University of New Mexico. And, always, there are the words. Harjo’s exquisite prose shows, as much as tells, us how poetry unlocks the door to feeling and charts a clear path to understanding. This is a must read for everyone who appreciates the healing power of literature.
Desert America: Boom and Bust in the New Old West
In a book that is part memoir and part social inquiry, Martínez describes his odyssey across the landscape of the modern Southwest from the Mojave Desert to northern New Mexico, southern Arizona, and the Big Bend of West Texas. Recalling the John Ford westerns of his childhood as he searches for his own form of healing, Martínez discovers behind the flickering celluloid images the gritty real world of competing hopes and dreams, where money and power race along the fault lines of class and ethnicity. “The desert . . . ,” he concludes, “is not the Big Empty, not the ‘spiritual’ place of gilded clouds, not the cowboys and cacti in silhouette, the desert of the Western or the Travel section.” In reality, “…it is crammed with history. An emptiness filled to bursting with stories in search of voices, ghosts in search of bodies.” In Martínez’s telling, these stories are all the more powerful for having been experienced firsthand.

Desert Reckoning: A Town Sheriff, a Mojave Hermit, and the Biggest Manhunt in Modern California History
In this expansion of her award-winning Rolling Stone article, veteran crime-writer Stillman examines the 2003 murder of a sheriff’s deputy by a recluse in the Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles. Through skillful use of sparse sources and a deep understanding of the history and culture of Southern California, Stillman paints a vivid picture of lives drifting out of control and the desert’s mesmerizing attraction for loners and misfits. Written in luminous prose, this spellbinding book provides a compelling and terrifying look into the violent margins of modern society.
The pursuer becomes the pursued as the Hollywood stuntman-turned-getaway driver Sallis introduced in his 2005 novel, Driver, cruises the freeways and city streets of Phoenix, dodging the killers in his rearview mirror. Seven years have passed since a double-cross transformed Driver into judge, jury, and executioner, and now it’s payback time for the mysterious hit men who dog his trail. There is not a wasted word in this taut thriller as Sallis leads readers on another adrenaline-filled ride through the mean streets of urban America, where cynicism is the coin of the realm and lives spin on the toss of a dime.
In the first serious study of the iconic Apache warrior since Angie Debo’s 1976 biography, the preeminent military historian of the American West draws on new sources and offers fresh interpretations to create a fast-paced narrative of Anglo-native warfare in the Southwest and provide a balanced assessment of a figure long shrouded in myth. The Geronimo who emerges from these pages is neither savage nor saint, but a flawed human being of immense personal magnetism who has come to symbolize resistance in the face of overwhelming odds. Utley’s authoritative biography will set the standard of scholarship and readability for at least the next half-century.
Great Aridness, A: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest
William deBuys has seen the future and it isn’t pretty. In this elegant and thoughtful rumination on climate change and its effects on our fragile desert environment, one of the Southwest’s premier environmental writers combines personal observation and interviews with leading scientists to describe where we’ve been and suggest where we may be headed. Taking the long view, he shows how flood, drought, fire and population migrations are recurring storylines that reach back into the ancient past, and cautions that global warming will only accelerate their impact on human habitation. But, deBuys is no doomsday prophet. The great message of his magnificent book is that, with knowledge and foresight, we can avert disaster and learn to live wisely on the land.
Hard Country
McGarrity, the popular author of a baker’s dozen mysteries featuring former New Mexico sheriff Kevin Kerney, stretches his literary wings in this epic novel of three generations of Kerney men (and one exceptional woman) carving out lives in the unforgiving badlands of West Texas and southern New Mexico. McGarrity has his history down cold, as his compelling fictional characters rub elbows with the likes of Billy the Kid, Albert Fountain, Oliver Lee, Pat Garrett, Albert Fall, Eugene Manlove Rhodes and other notable southwesterners. But the real jewel here is the family saga of flawed men overcoming their limitations in order to hold fast in a hard country. McGarrity once again proves himself a master storyteller.
With Blood in Their Eyes

A pre-dawn shootout at a remote cabin in southeastern Arizona’s Galiuro Mountains on February 10, 1918, launched the Southwest’s largest manhunt. In this gripping novel, Cobb (Crazy Heart, Shavetail) follows the fugitive Power boys, Tom and John, and hired hand Tom Sisson on their dash for the Mexican border, interspersed with flashbacks that set the stage for their bloody confrontation with Graham County lawmen. Lean dialogue, sharp description and profound insights into the human soul energize this riveting portrait of honor and manhood among hard men fighting to survive in a hard land.

About Bruce Dinges

Bruce Dinges is director of publications for the Arizona Historical Society.

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