Sunday, March 18, 2012


I'm happy to announce, after twenty-four months of suspenseful waiting, that my nonfiction book Season of Terror:  The Espinosas in Central Colorado, March-October 1863 has been accepted for publication by the University Press of Colorado. Mine will be the first comprehensive, book-length treatment of the story of three Hispanic outlaws--two brothers and a nephew--who, in Civil War-era Colorado, set out with the improbable motive of killing every Anglo in the Territory and actually did end the lives of an estimated thirty-two victims before their rampage came to a bloody end.

I was initially inspired to write the book by America's reaction to jihadist terrorism since 9/11, which I saw as not dissimilar to that of 19th-century Anglos in Colorado; but my purpose soon broadened to include an examination of how frontier settlers reacted to danger when official law enforcement was in its infancy and relations between Anglo newcomers and the Hispanics who had earlier colonized Southern Colorado were dangerously at odds at even the best of times.

Improbably it is a story whose impact spread quickly from a remote regional incident to one that eventually reached as high as the desks of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and President Abraham Lincoln.  It involves a cast of compelling characters including frontier legend Kit Carson; General James H. Carleton, the imperious military commander of the Department of New Mexico; John M. Chivington, the so-called "Fighting Parson," Methodist minister and unscrupulous military commander of  Colorado Territory who later perpetrated the infamous Sand Creek Massacre of Cheyenne Indians; the Espinosas themselves, poor farmers who were fervent members of a lay religious sect called The Penitentes, intent on avenging outrages committed against their families by American soldiers; an old Army scout named Tom Tobin, largely forgotten by history, who tracked down and killed two of the outlaws; and numerous other larger-than-life figures who together played out an episode in frontier violence and cultural confrontation that has been for too long unjustly neglected or, when noticed at all, fantastically sensationalized.

During the process of having the manuscript scrutinized for publication by a highly respected academic publisher I have learned there are many significant differences between having a novel reviewed for acceptance by a commercial publisher and the extensive peer-reviewing and fact-checking that go together to assure that the finished book is consistent with the established reputation for quality that university presses must maintain.  Needless to say, I'm proud to be associated with such a prestige house.  The book will not see print for another 10 to 15 months, so I'll be keeping you abreast of developments as they occur.

As I've said before in this space, I've also written a fictional account of the Espinosa affair--hopefully not a completely redundant endeavor--which has yet to find a home.  I call it Blood Offerings.  It takes a somewhat different tack on the motives of the killers than does Season of Terror; I hope one day it may also become a published work.

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