Southwest Books of the Year
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- Old Gray Wolf: The
- By James Doss. Minotaur. 344 pp. $25.99.
- A new Charlie Moon mystery! ‘Nuff said. But this one, set in Ute country, is the 17th and final book in the popular series, published shortly after the author died.
- On Top of Spoon Mountain
- By John Nichols. University of New Mexico Press. 232 pp. $24.95.
- In this latest novel John Nichols spins a story around a writer who wants to reclimb a tall, rugged mountain on his 65th birthday to see if he still has what it takes. The characters include a smart-mouth daughter, reticent son, looking-for-better girlfriend and her still jealous ex-, and a fading-author father whose best seldom seems good enough. The plot is poignant but the dialogue ripples with fun as idealism meets reality. There’s something here for any reader. [ ]
- As is frequently true in Nichols’ novels ("The Milagro Beanfield War" and ten others) the first-person narrative reminds us that many of the incidents and attitudes “reported” here probably happened to the author, not just the fictional narrator. This narrator, approaching 65 and a physical wreck, wants to climb Spoon Mountain (13,000 feet) one last time with his two grown children, for old-times sake. Filled with bawdy humor, agony, pathos and bathos, this novel will delight Nichols’ fans, most of whom will probably notice that the basic message has changed from “we must fight for equality” to “if we don’t save the environment, equality won’t matter at all!” The incipit reads “Rewind history, please. I want another chance.” [ ]
- One Perfect Shot
- By Steven F. Havill. Poisoned Pen Press. 331 pp. $14.95.
- Havill’s series about the fictional Posadas County, New Mexico, sheriff’s department is now nearing 20 titles and through them all the author’s deft control of procedure (and especially firearms identification) never wavers. In "One Perfect Shot" Havill takes us back nearly 30 years, relating how Estelle Reyes, then a nineteen-year-old, came to work for Undersheriff Bill Gastner. Solid procedural plotting and interesting characters make this a fine reading experience for mystery fans. [ ]
- Only One Living to Tell, The: The Autobiography of a Yavapai Indian
- By Mike Burns. University of Arizona Press. 179 pp. $17.95.
- Burns’ family was part of a branch of the Yavapais who were slaughtered in eastern Arizona by U.S. troops in 1872 in what is now known as the Skeleton Cave Massacre. In a brief, helpful preface McNamee explains how the text came to be written. He notes also that his intent was to do the least amount of editing so as to leave Burns’ words his own. This is a very successful effort that gives us a first-hand account of what life was like for Indians on the San Carlos Reservation toward the end of the 19th century; in particular Burns’ early years, of course, which included time spent away from the Reservation with cavalry troops. [ ]
- This very readable rendering of Mike Burns’ autobiography takes us back to the Arizona Indian wars, the Apache Kid, and life on a reservation. Burns, a Yavapai boy whose family was killed by soldiers in 1872, was adopted by a soldier and later served as a scout. The events and characters are remarkable. Two other books have resulted from Burns’ autobiographical notes: Elaine Waterstrat’s "Hoomothya's Long Journey, 1865-1897: The True Story of a Yavapai Indian" (1998), a young reader’s book, and "All of My People Were Killed," a heavier, annotated edition by the Sharlot Hall Museum in 2010. [ ]
- Oral History of the Yavapai
- By Mike Harrison, John Williams. Acacia Publishing Inc.. 414 pp. Index. $24.95.
- During March of 1974, Anthropologist Sigrid Khera began recording the oral histories of Yavapai elders, Mike Harrison (1886-1983) and John Williams (1904-1983) of Fort McDowell. Carolina Butler, well known for her project on the Orme Dam, has transcribed the documents in addition to providing an in depth historic background of the Yavapai in this fine book. These histories help round out the Yavapai story since the biographies of Carlos Montezuma (1866-1923) and Mike Burns (1864-1934) chronicled earlier times. [ ]
- Completed nearly thirty years ago and never before published, this is a curious mixture of history, memory and myth. Harrison and Williams, Yavapai elders, talked with Khera at various times during nearly a decade in the 1970s and 1980s. Her notes and taped conversations provided the basis for Butler’s editing. [ ]
- Orphaned Land, The: New Mexico's Environment Since the Manhattan Project
- By V.B. Price. University of New Mexico Press. 362 pp. Index. $29.95.
- Price, a journalist and New Mexico transplant since 1960, paints a grim picture of his adopted state’s present and future economy and the health and well-being of its citizens. New Mexico is especially vulnerable on a number of levels because of past uranium mining, nuclear experimentation, careless waste disposal, prolonged drought, exploitation of lower socioeconomic minorities, political mindsets that more development is better, overly optimistic assessments of water reserves and a tendency to sweep problems under the table. However, it doesn’t take a genius to realize these problems are not unique to the Land of Enchantment. Carefully researched and clearly presented, this is an important wake-up call. [ ]
- Nuclear testing, Uranium mining, radioactive emissions, and various extractive industries in New Mexico have produced hazardous waste threatening both the environment and ground water supply in New Mexico. Radioactive contamination from Los Alamos National Laboratories is only one example of environmental impact over many years. The author notes that he writes about a subject that lacks publicly available scientific data hampered by both political and commercial interests. Mainly available are newspaper articles and government and sate agency reports.
This is a tough but important read, since in all instances the conditions threaten the health of New Mexicans.
- Out of the Ruins: Pioneer Life in Frontier Phoenix, Arizona Territory 1867-1881
- By Patrick Grady. Arizona Pioneer Press. 192 pp. $20.00.
- Phoenix began as a farm town but it also had its Wild West share of shoot-outs and lynchings. Author Patrick Grady includes a love story of George and Aggie Loring, perspectives on society and “first” citizens, details on laying out the town, and fun information on early commerce and town life, making for light, interesting reading. A nice addition to the state’s centennial literature. [ ]
- Regular readers of southwestern and Arizona history will remember Grady’s detailed sketch of 50 years of pioneer life in Cave Creek, north of Phoenix. Here he tackles the first 15 years in the life of what was to become both the State’s largest city and its capital. As with the previous book, this one looks at details of the development including some brief accounts of major figures such as Darrell Duppa and Jack Swilling, along with lesser known but important “players” such as Michael Wormser, William Hancock and John T. Alsap. An extensive bibliography lists important published sources as well archives. I wish it had an index. [ ]