Bruce Dinges' Picks

Emerald Mile, The: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Though the Heart of the Grand Canyon
Fedarko, an award-winning journalist and part-time river guide, captures in all its heart-stopping twists and turns the epic 1983 speed run of three daredevil boatmen through the flood-gorged Grand Canyon. Iconoclast extraodinaire Kenton Grua occupies center stage as the mastermind behind the astonishing feat, but Fedarko's supreme accomplishment lies in his remarkable ability to place Grua and his companions within the pantheon of other great canyonland adventurers from Spanish times to the present, and in his equal respect for the engineers and dreamers whose attempts to tame the Colorado River averted disaster when put to the test. "The Emerald Mile" earns its place among the classic accounts of Grand Canyon adventure and exploration.
Everything Begins & Ends at the Kentucky Club
Saenz explores boundaries, both physical and emotional, in this luminescent collection of short stories that won the 2013 Pen/Faulkner award for fiction. The Kentucky Club on Avenida Juarez is the place where Saenz's characters come to assess the cost of love lost and won, and where readers are reminded of the endless possibilities of lives lived without borders. With poetic precision, Saenz charts the human heart's travertine course across landscapes of heartache and loneliness.
Lady at the O.K. Corral: The True Story of Josephine Marcus Earp
Kirschner performs an amazing feat of historical sleuthing as she separates fact from fiction in this first detailed biography of the Jewish actress who won the heart of one of the Old West's iconic lawmen. Readers are in for a treat as she paints a vibrant portrait of the vivacious Josephine and chronicles the adventures she shared with her common-law husband in frontier boomtowns, the Alaska goldfields, and Hollywood backlots. More than just a story of ambition and romance, "Lady at the O.K. Corral" is a riveting tale of lives lived large and of how legends are made.
Rules of Wolfe, The: A Border Noir
Deft plotting and crisp, clean prose transport readers into the cartel underworld where a young gunman makes a break for the Arizona border after killing the brother of a Sonoran drug kingpin. There are rules even among killers and few writers are better than Blake when the time comes to tally the price of honor among thieves. Without a wasted word, he has crafted a pitch-perfect borderlands thriller.
Searchers, The: The Making of an American Legend
Frankel tosses a broad loop as he describes how history, art, and popular culture intersect in the iconic 1956 John Ford motion picture based on the captivity of Cynthia Ann Parker and filmed in Monument Valley. The result is mesmerizing and instructive as Frankel sets the historical stage, examines the Alan LeMay novel adapted for the screen, describes the complex relationship between director Ford and actor John Wayne, follows the course of filming in Navajo country, provides an appraisal of the movie that consistently ranks among the top five Hollywood westerns, and firmly fixes its place in the American psyche. This is both a masterpiece of film criticism and a thoughtful examination of how legends are made.
Son of a Gun
In the late summer of 2001, Debbie St. Germain was brutally murdered by her fifth husband in their trailer outside Tombstone, Arizona. In his soul-searching memoir, Debbie's son sifts through the shards of his mother's tragic life for clues to her death and to make sense out of his own fractured childhood. More than just another meditation on personal loss, this stubbornly unsentimental book, spun out against the backdrop of Tombstone's glorification of Wyatt Earp and the O.K. Corral gunfight, is a sobering commentary on unmoored personalities and the violent mythology of the Old West.
Son, The
Eli McCullough, born in the year of Texas independence, learns a fundamental lesson from the people who killed his family and took him captive as a child: "It had become clear to me that the lives of the rich and famous were not so different from the lives of the Comanches: you did what you pleased and answered to no one." In this breathtakingly original novel, Meyer explodes our cherished myths of frontier settlement as Eli amasses a fortune in cattle and oil, leaving a finely crafted cast of McCullough descendants to deal with the consequences of an old man's obsession. With humor and pathos, Meyer challenges the American dream of wealth and power and assesses the cost of success for the winners and losers.

About Bruce Dinges

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

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