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Dale Morgan on the Mormons: Collected Works
By Dale L. Morgan. Arthur H. Clark Company. 530 pp. Index. $45.00.

This collection of work by historian Dale L. Morgan (1914-1871) comprises volume 14 in "Kingdom in the West: The Mormons and the American Frontier," a reference work on the history of the West.
Dance All Night: Those Other Southwestern Swing Bands, Past and Present
By Jean A. Boyd. Texas Tech University Press. 361 pp. Index. $65.00.
Boyd notes that when Western Swing is referred to the usual suspects are names like Bob Wills or, farther west, Spade Cooley. Here she reminds us of those groups that filled dance floors and radio airwaves in the middle of the 20th century, especially in Texas. In addition to profiles of more than 40 groups she provides nearly 100 musical transcriptions and about 30 pictures. And she says Western Swing is making a comeback! []
Country swing dances were a primary Southwestern entertainment for decades in the past century and the music itself continues to evolve and captivate legions of listeners. Author Jean Boyd mixes the arcane facts of who played what songs for which bands with an infectious enthusiasm for the music itself. If you ever wondered who was the better band leader, Bob Wills or his brother Johnnie Lee Wills, or which musicians most influenced Hot Club of Cowtown, "Dance All Night" will set your mind to dancing. The artists range from Hank Thompson and the Brazos Valley Boys to Asleep at the Wheel. []

Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the U.S. and Mexico
By Susie Byrd, Beto O'Rourke. Cinco Puntos Press. 119 pp. $12.95.
The authors, both long-time residents of El Paso, begin with an overview of the death toll in Juarez in recent years, much of it attributed to control and sale of illegal drugs. The middle six chapters of the book deal with the economics and have such titles as “Profit,” “Market Forces,” “Supply,” and “Market Share.” Their argument concludes with a comparison of the demand for and marketing of alcohol followed by a discussion of the problems and benefits that legalization would bring. An interesting approach to a national/international problem. []

Descanso for My Father: Fragments of a Life
By , Harrison Candelaria Fletcher. University of Nebraska Press. 147 pp. $14.95.
Fletcher’s father died when he was too young to remember the man. Over the years of his growing up in New Mexico he created for himself an image of the man and here he speaks to that man, and to himself and his own children. The “fragments” are beautifully written short pieces, some no longer than a sentence, others a page or two. In total they remind us poetically, and lovingly, of the human condition. []

Desert America: Boom and Bust in the New Old West
By Ruben Martinez. Metropolitan Books. 333 pp. $28.00.
Top Pick
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
By Deanne Stillman. Nation Books. Index. $26.00.
Top Pick
Nearly a decade ago a week-long manhunt by hundreds of police personnel in the Mojave Desert led to the death of desert-rat, loner and civilization-hater Donald Kueck. He had murdered a local sheriff’s deputy and then gone on the run and into hiding. Stillman’s research and presentation are simply superb. She presents a broad point of view and allows all the major players in the drama to speak for themselves. When we finish reading we may think either “tragedy” or “just-desserts”, but we won’t doubt that we understand who, why, when, where and how. []
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. []

Desert Terroir: Exploring the Unique Flavors and Sundry Places of the Borderlands
By Gary Nabhan. University of Texas Press. 132 pp. $24.95.
Nabhan espouses sustainable harvesting and consumption of locally grown organic foods. He likens the Southwest Borderlands to the Middle Eastern terrain of his forebears and believes that being tough and hardy as desert plants must be improves the taste and quality of food. He is planting his Patagonia property with Mediterranean species because he anticipates future warming and drought. Nabhan writes smoothly, reverently and convincingly, reminding us of Mother Nature’s gifts. []
Nabhan escorts readers on a culinary tour of the southwestern borderlands, introducing us to the plants and animals that create the distinctive taste (terroir) of desert regions from the Middle East to Baja California. Part history lesson and part cultural geography, this sprightly book links East and West through centuries of botanical borrowings and gastronomic importation. To know a region and its people, Nabhan reminds us, you must eat the products of its soils and rivers. Whether he's describing a rafting trip down the Rio Grande, sampling camel jerky, or savoring mesquite tortillas, Nabhan's passion is infectuous. We turn away with a refreshed palate and a deeper appreciation (though perhaps not so deep as Nabhan's) of eating as an act of communion with the world around us. []

Desert Trader: The Life and Quilts of Goldie Tracy Richmond
By Carolyn O'Bagy Davis. Sanpete Publications. 119 pp. .
Born in Kansas in 1896, Goldie Tracy Richmond learned how to shoot rabbits for the soup pot at an early age and once killed a bobcat bare-handed. She worked hard to survive, walked miles for water daily, frequently lived in little more than a shack, buried one husband and nursed a second. Larger than life (she weighed well over 300 pounds) the legendary Richmond ran a trading post on the Tohono O’odham reservation for more than 40 years, where she made countless friends. She’s remembered best, however, for her beautiful, hand appliqued quilts depicting scenes of the Sonoran Desert, each one now a collector’s item; many of them illustrate this remarkable book. []
From 1932 to 1966 Aunt Goldie, as she was known to many, ran a roadside trading post between Tucson and Ajo. She lived a modest frontier life in the desert where she had to haul water, but she made beautiful quilts that now hang in museums. She could kill a wildcat with her bare hands but she gently healed the sick and fed the poor. She was a legend to travelers and a hero to friends. This amazing book richly tells the story of an ordinary person who did extraordinary things. She’s one who I really wish I had known, and this book let’s me feel that I did. []

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