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Came Men on Horses: The Conquistador Expeditions of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and Don Juan de Onate
By Stan Hoig. University Press of Colorado. 344 pp. Index. $34.95.
This very readable history chronicles the 1541 expedition of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado up Mexico’s west coast, and the 1601 trip of Don Juan de Oñate, up Mexico’s interior, into Tierra Nueva—today’s New Mexico—and beyond, as far as Kansas. Characterizing the conquistadors’ motivation to explore as a desire for riches (gold and silver, particularly, as had been discovered by Hernan Cortés in Mexico and Francisco Pizarro in Peru), University of Central Oklahoma former Professor Emeritus Hoig presents the Spaniards’ arrogance, single-mindedness, and cruelty in credible and disturbing detail. Pursuing the “City of Gold” might prove fruitless for the conquistadors, but not pursuing it and thus missing it would have been disastrous personally and professionally, even if it cost the lives of the indigenous population. Illustrations, maps with current landmarks, and comprehensive annotation provide welcome assistance to the reader. []
Using a wide range of sources from original to recent, Stan Hoig engagingly retells the story of the Coronado Expedition to the Southwest in 1540. His clear narratives help us better understand the purpose and events of this failed and hurtful foray to pry wealth from the Indians of New Mexico, and he candidly adds fascinating insight into characters such as Francisco Coronado and Juan de Oñate. This book is an excellent starting point to understand the expedition and its everlasting effects. []

Camille Carries the Mail
By Lisa Hodgkins. Mirror Publishing . 28 pp. $9.99.
Top Pick
A cute picture book set in the mid 1800s in Arizona. Camille is a camel who works carrying mail across the desert. Based on true events when the government bought 75 camels for possible use for haulage and transportation. I liked the story line and the illustrations(Carlos Lemos). []

Carrion Birds, The
By Urban Waite. William Morrow. 288 pp. $25.99.
The wages of sin are high and redemption comes hard in this stylish noir thriller set in a decaying southeastern New Mexico oil town. Ray Lamar believes he's doing the right thing when he returns home, where years earlier drug violence cost him his wife and left his young son badly injured. Instead, he sets in motion bloody events that tumble like dominoes to a conclusion that is a dramatic as it is inescapable. Lyrical writing, sober reflections on the nature of good and evil, and a cast of characters worthy of Dashell Hammett or James Cain make for an electrifying read. []

Chronicle of a Small Town
By Jim W. Corder. Texas A&M University Press. 175 pp. $19.95.

Citizens Warehouse: With Select Works from the Artists
By Citizens Artist Collective . Eponymous Atelier. 128 pp. Index. $40.00.
Top Pick
Any day goes better with art. In Citizens Warehouse, named for the once-abandoned building in Tucson where they now have studios, we have a couple dozen accomplished artists adding zest to our day. Nick Georgiou shows us his fascinating newsprint sculptures, Hannah Nance Partlow displays her resolute posters and installations, Dirk Arnold adds authentic architectural miniatures, Troy Neiman presents his found-metal sculptures and ceramics, and Christina Cárdenas wakes us up with Latina-themed gouache on wood. This delightful sampler reminds us that original studio-made art belongs in our homes, businesses, and public spaces. Every page grabs our attention. A limited edition signed by all the artists is available. []

Cold Deck
By H. Lee Barnes. University of Nevada Press. 201 pp. $26.95.
Barnes, once a dealer in Vegas, draws upon that experience to spin a tale that begins with the 1980 fire that destroyed the MGM Grand. The narrator, Jude Helms, luckily survived. Now, decades later, divorced and barely making ends meet, a stunningly beautiful woman comes into his life and Jude is drawn into a scheme that will make him rich, or perhaps make him dead. Barnes’ novel slowly unfolds revealing the underbelly of Las Vegas while telling a tale that will appeal especially to the legion of blackjack players. []

Color Country: Touring the Colorado Plateau
By Susan M. Neider. Rainstone Press. 183 pp. $24.95.

Conflict in Colonial Sonora: Indians, Priests, and Settlers
By David Yetman. University of New Mexico Press. 280 pp. Index. $45.00.
This admirable book fills a chasm in our appreciation of what it was like to be an Indian, priest, settler or soldier under Spanish rule in northeastern Sonora from 1640-1770. And boy oh boy, was it complicated. Sometimes the Indians would ally with the priests against the settlers, and at other times the soldiers would work side by side with the Indians against the priest or other Indians. No one was safe from failure or exploitation, least of all the Indians. Author David Yetman enlists his wide ranging interests to breathe life into several olden manuscripts, and he smoothly weaves us an intriguing, compelling tale of frontier life under the Spanish Crown. Reliably and sympathetically portraying the personalities, politics, and complex self-interests of sometimes noble, sometimes villainous groups, Yetman brings history to life as you probably never imagined it. It is worthy of a historical mini-series. []

Contested Waters: An Environmental History of the Colorado River
By April R. Summitt. University Press of Colorado. 286 pp. Index. $34.95.
Not “just” an environmental history, Summitt’s observations, both historical and contemporary, provide insight into how we in the arid southwest got into the mess we are in when it comes to water. Thoroughly documented, extensive footnotes for each chapter lead to sources that will not be on every environmentalist’s reading list, but perhaps should be. An important, well-written and accessible text. []

Cormac McCarthy's House: Reading McCarthy Without Walls
By Peter Josyph. University of Texas Press. 292 pp. Index. $29.95.
In this freewheeling and exuberantly self-referential memoir, Josyph explores the boundaries of art and criticism through personal experience and conversations with fellow McCarthy enthusiasts - photographer Mark Morrow, stage director Tom Cornford, and friend and critic Marty Priola. Readers who appreciate Josyph's depth of knowledge and breadth of interests will learn much, not only about McCarthy's singular genius, but about the artistic temperament, from Zola to Hemingway, and the insights it provides into the human experience. []
In Josyph’s concept, the image of Cormac McCarthy’s house is simply a free-wheeling, anything-goes place where authors of many generations reside side by side. There are no limits, i.e., “no walls”. Included here are transcriptions of interviews with people (I note they are all men) who are as enthusiastic about Cormac as is the author. Do not expect the easy-reading of a straight narrative; readers who persevere will learn much about McCarthy and his books but perhaps even more about Josyph! []

Cowboy Stuntman: From Olympic Gold to the Silver Screen
By Mike Cox, Dean Smith. Texas Tech University Press. 264 pp. Index. $29.95.
A member of the 400 meter relay team that won the gold at the Helsinki Olympics (1952), Texan Smith’s career came as a stuntman in Hollywood during those golden days of movie westerns. Now in his 80s he has a good memory for the incidents of those years: the movie stars like James Garner and John Wayne and the dozens of movies in which he worked, starting with a bit part in Quantrill’s Raiders (1957) and continuing through 2009 with a role in 4th and Goal. Hollywood and movie buffs, especially western fans, should enjoy this book. []

Cowboy Up!: Ride the Navajo Rodeo
By Nancy Bo Flood. Wordsong Press. 48 pp. $17.95.

Crossing Purgatory
By Gary Schanbacher. Pegasus Books. 320 pp. $25.00.
Top Pick
The year is 1858. The death of his wife and children while he is away trying to get funding from his father to expand his Indiana farm overwhelms Thompson Grey. Bewildered and haunted he takes to the Santa Fe Trail, not sure what the future might bring, or if he even cares. Schanbacher is an excellent storyteller who creates strong characters and sets them in a visible landscape faced with trials and dangers, both natural and man made. []

Cultural Construction of Empire: The U.S. Army in Arizona and New Mexico
By Janne Lahti. University of Nebraska Press. 344 pp. Index. $55.00.
A Finnish scholar takes a provocative look at the frontier army as an agent of empire in the Southwest. Steeped in postcolonial theory and drawing on a wealth of documentary sources, Lahti argues that army men and women represented a self-justifying social and cultural hierarchy, based on race and class, that swept aside indigenous people and native cultures in the name of civilization. Intended primarily for an academic audience, this thoughtful re-examination of a well-worn topic offers much food for productive discussion among military historians and students of frontier settlement. []

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