The Wedge of the San Rafael
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Books and covers
Yes, yes, I'm well aware that I'm the worst blogger in the history of, well, blog. I also run into people who want to know when my next book is coming out, and why can't I write faster. Plus I sometimes have to do booksignings, which are sometimes quite fun, and other times are a bit frustrating, as I try to convince people that they really ought to try my books. And I take trips and visit friends - you know who you are - and just generally have a life. Blog comes about last, and I do apologize.
And I do enjoy reading other's books. Case in point: I was a huge Tony Hillerman fan, from the beginning to almost the end. Tony died a few years back, and I, like many, mourned his passing. He was a great journalist, pretty good writer, but the best guy at taking a subject few knew about - the Navajo Tribal Police - and giving them, and their nation, the credit they deserve. His name will long be honored among crime fiction readers, and people who love The People.
I'll admit to a tad bit of skepticism when I read that his daughter Anne Hillerman decided to carry on Tony's tales about the Navajo Tribal Police, specifically, Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, plus a great addition, Officer Bernie Manuelito, Jim's new wife. Anne's father had introduced Bernie a few books back, but by then, I must say that his novelist's powers were greatly diminished. His last three books had none of the power of the first dozen.
I am a skeptic no more. I read Anne Hillerman's Leaphorn/Chee book, called The Spider Woman's Daughter, and I am hooked. I want to contact Anne and tell her to writer faster, because I want more of Jim and Joe and Bernie. If you enjoyed Tony Hillerman's work, give Anne Hillerman a try. I doubt you'll be disappointed.
I especially enjoyed this latest entry because this summer I took one of those trips to Navajo Country with my daughter, Mary Ruth, and her dear friend, Renee, who is now my friend, too. We went down to Gallup for the Intertribal dancing and drumming, held annually. After a brief overnighter in Santa Fe (do eat at The Shed if you go), we spent a few days in Gallup. Renee raised her family there, and Mary Ruth taught there for a few years, so it was fun just to drive the streets and listen to the two of them remember good and bad times. We visited the flea market and bought jewelry and I bought a lovely skirt, a twirly skirt. I'm in heaven.
Driving home north through the great Navajo reservation was also wonderful, a chance to see the great outcropping and rocks (Shiprock being one) that define the borders of the land of the Dineh. All this made Anne Hillerman's book extra special.
But to books and covers: I'm writing Book Two of the Spanish Brand Series, and reading for research, too. I came across a novel called The Staked Plain. It takes place in the area of West Texas called Llano Estacado, because it is so trackless that supposedly early Spanish explorers drove stakes in the ground at intervals so they wouldn't get lost. I found the old paperback via Amazon with that title, by Frank X. Tolbird. First published by Harper & Brothers in 1958, I have a 1962 paperback edition with a positively lurid cover - tall white man standing with a rifle over a winsome Comanche (I suppose) woman. There's an obnoxious blurb on the front cover that reads, "Peyton Place on Horseback - or a Kinsey Report on the Comanches of West Texas in the 1860's and 70's."
Absolutely nothing could be farther from the truth. The Staked Plain is based on a true story about an interesting fellow named Llano Estacado (Staked Plain) Nabors, who actually lived the life written about. It's a wonderful story and I am learning so much about the people and the area. Unfortunately, the print is so tiny, and the pages so yellowed that I can barely read it.
So I ordered a larger copy this morning. This one is published by a university press, with forwards and afterwards by distinguished writers and historians, giving the book its due. But oh, that original cover! That's what writers have to put up with, at times. But we love to write, so we get over it.