Saturday, May 8, 2010


It was October of 2009 when I last posted to this blog. There are several reasons for the long hiatus. First, I was busy completing my novel Blood Offerings, an account of a spate of serial killings committed in Colorado Territory in 1863 by the Espinosas, two Hispanic brothers and their nephew who set out to examinate all Anglos. After finishing the novel I surfaced from my customary submerged-from-the-world compositional state, looked around and realized that the market for serious fiction had just about gone belly-up while I was otherwise engaged. So I took another look at the base material of the novel and realized it might also make absorbing fare for a nonfiction treatment. I decided to try my hand as a straight historian--something I've always secretly wanted to be . That piece of work is done now. It's called Season of Terror: The Espinosas in Central Colorado, March-October 1863.

Not everyone who knows my work will necessarily agree with my characterization of my fiction as"serious." Historical novels, no matter how solemn, tend to give off a faint odor of literary illegitimacy which the delicate nostrils of the intelligentsia cannot fail to sniff. Still less will a historical novel set the the 19th-century American West be likely to gain acceptance by those who judge books not by their content but by what is perceived to be their genre. So Blood Offerings, easily mistaken as a "Western," may never see the light of day.

But I have hopes for Season of Terror for, behold, it is topical. The Espinosas may have been madmen or simply homicidal criminals, but they were also religious fanatics who had come to hate what they saw as the godless, greed-infected, racist and imperialist nature of the Americans who had conquered their New Mexico homeland in 1846 and set about imposing Protestant Anglo ways on a 300-year-old Hispanic culture, disrespecting their Roman Catholic faith in the process. They became what we would call terrorists in the jihadist mode, and operating in true terroristic ways, striking at random from secret in order to spread the maximum amount of panic. They killed at least 32 Americans and perhaps more, before they were shot down in their turn, one by a civilian posse and the other two by a rugged old-time mountain man named Tom Tobin, a good friend of the legendary Kit Carson.

Not only does this story offer some constructive cautionary lessons about how terrorism can be incited, it also shows how terrorism can cause the terrorized to set aside their own customary values the better and faster to find and extinguish the terrorists. In the Espinosas' case, two innocent men were lynched and several more tortured by terrified Anglos determined to put an end to their intolerable fear. I think the story has some resonance for today. Anyway, that's what I've been up to lately. I'm shopping Season of Terror around to publishers now; Blood Offerings is fast asleep in my flash drive.

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