Rio Ruidoso: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Excerpt

RIO RUIDOSO
Three Rivers Trilogy, 1
by
PRESTON LEWIS
Genre: Historical Western
Publisher: Five Star Publishing
Date of Publication: February 19, 2020
Number of Pages: 299

2017 Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association:
Best Creative Work on West Texas

 

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Rio Ruidoso offers a gripping blend of history and story as two-time Spur Award-winner Preston Lewis explores the violent years before the famed Lincoln County War in New Mexico Territory. Seamlessly weaving fact with fiction, the author details the county’s corruption, racism, and violence through the eyes of protagonist Wes Bracken, newly arrived in the region to start a horse ranch with his alcoholic brother.

 

Bracken’s dreams for the Mirror B Ranch are threatened by his brother’s drunkenness, the corruption of economic kingpin Lawrence G. Murphy, and the murderous rampages of the racist Horrell Brothers. To bring tranquility to Lincoln County, Bracken must defeat those threats and stand his ground against the ever-changing alliances that complicate life and prosperity in multi-racial Lincoln County.

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Excerpt

EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER ONE OF

RIO RUIDOSO

BY PRESTON LEWIS

As he neared the bend in the stream, a woman’s screams and sobs grew discernible and louder. Then Wes heard the mocking laugh of amused men. Rounding the bend, Wes saw a small adobe dwelling with a small cultivated field between it and the Ruidoso. And in front of the house, he spied a circle of four men around a Hispanic woman. A fifth man sat horseback, holding the others’ mounts. All five were hurrahing the woman and someone else within their circle.

Wes held the stallion back while he studied the five men, all so intent on their mischief that not one had noticed their visitor less than a hundred yards away. Wes knew neither the dispute nor its cause, but he could see the odds were less than fair. He levered a cartridge into the Winchester, then shook the reins. The sorrel stepped forward, the gap between Wes and the men narrowing to eighty yards, sixty yards, then forty yards. Still the men remained oblivious to all but the prey within their small circle.

Wes watched a frail man stand up among them, only to be shoved back to the ground by a bigger assailant. The woman screamed and tried to help the victim, but another attacker grabbed her arm and jerked her away. She fell to the ground, then clambered toward the frail man. Everyone laughed, except Wes! He had seen enough.

“Get up, greaser, so I can plant you in the ground again,” taunted one attacker.

At twenty yards, Wes eased back on the sorrel’s reins. Swinging the barrel of his carbine toward the assailants, he shouted, “Afternoon.”

Five men flinched at the greeting, then stiffened. They slowly turned around, facing Wes, their hands frozen near the revolvers at their sides.

“What seems to be the trouble?” Wes called out.

The woman burst through the circle of men and rushed toward Wes. “Gracias, señor, muy gracias!

Her cry and the flash of her skirt spooked Charlie. The sorrel nervously backtracked a half-dozen steps. One man reached toward his pistol, his hand wrapping around the gun butt.

The Hispanic woman stopped dead still.

Wes jerked the carbine to his shoulder and fired over the foolhardy man. The fellow’s fingers widened and his arm went limp, releasing the pistol that slid back into its holster. His companions raised their hands away from their own sidearms.

The young woman’s hand flew to her throat. “Please, señor, stop them from hurting us.”

Wes nodded. “What’s the trouble?”

One troublemaker stepped ahead of the others. He had a stiff neck, his whole body turning with his head. “No trouble. Until you showed up, fellow!”

“The young lady wouldn’t agree, now would she?”

“She’s Mexican. What’s she know?”

“Enough to expect decent treatment from folks.”

Stiff neck turned his whole body toward the others. “He damn sure ain’t from Texas, now is he?” As they laughed, stiff neck twisted back to face Wes. “Hell, fellow, you remember the Alamo? This greaser’s kin likely killed good white folks there. We’re just paying them back.”

Wes shrugged. “That was near forty years ago, and this isn’t Texas. You best forget the Alamo, ride on and leave these folks alone.”

Raising his fist, stiff neck advanced a step. “Fellow, I don’t know who you are, but you got no business interfering in what my bunch does. The name’s Horrell, I’m Mart, and these are my brothers Tom, Merritt, Ben, and Sam. We’ll ride out, but you remember the Horrell name if you’re planning on staying in Lincoln County because we’ll meet again when we ain’t in such a good mood.” 

Preston Lewis is the Spur Award-winning author of thirty novels. In addition to his two Western Writers of America Spurs, he received the 2018 Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Western Humor for Bluster’s Last Stand, the fourth volume in his comic western series The Memoirs of H. H. Lomax. Two other books in that series were Spur finalists. His comic western The Fleecing of Fort Griffin received the Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association for best creative work on the region.

 


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Gone to Soldiers: My Review

Gone to Soldiers Book CoverI have read many novels of World War II, but none like Gone to Soldiers by Marge Piercy. Ambitious in scope, this sweeping epic not only immerses the reader into the events that took place during these tumultuous years, but connects them emotionally with the pain, suffering, tragedies and triumphs of ordinary people. Her lens into the horrors of this monumental conflict is unique. Told from a woman’s perspective, it emphasizes the struggles of the Jewish people and their resilience. In passages that are heartbreaking, compelling, and unsparing in their detail, she describes the horrors of the concentration camps… Hitler’s Final Solution. With the rise of antisemitism some seventy-five years after Germany’s surrender to Allied forces, it is both a somber reflection on the Holocaust and the survival of the human spirit in spite of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man, as well as a sobering reminder that such discrimination and persecution continue today.

But Piercy goes way beyond the stories of those who perished or inexplicably survived the death camps, to give voice to those who waited for word of their loved ones. It took resilience to continue living without any information about fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, friends and lovers who were either fighting the Nazis across Europe or the Japanese in the South Pacific, or who found themselves caught in the middle between opposing armies. Piercy gives us flesh and blood characters whose strengths and flaws are given equal shrift, and whose hopes and dreams and daily realities mirror our own.

Just as life is not straight forward, Piercy’s story involves multiple characters whose different stories and experiences all converge or overlap in a sprawling 769 page narrative. It definitely took me awhile to wade through this voluminous novel, but I was engaged throughout and totally engrossed in the fate of each and every person regardless of how vile or good, their occupation or social status, wealth or impoverishment, ambitions or insecurities, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.  I was emotionally involved and genuinely cared about them.

Such a response to the written word is a testament to Marge Piercy’s ability as an author. Her strong female characters challenge traditional gender roles yet Gone to Soldiers is not just geared towards a female audience. The women give voice and unique perspective to World War II that isn’t found in other literary works.

These were extraordinary times experienced by extraordinary people, many of them women. Their stories are just as relevant as the men’s, and Piercy captures both.

 

 

 

Collision of Lies: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Review and Giveaway

COLLISION OF LIES
(Detective Amara Alvarez, Book One)
by
TOM THREADGILL
  
Genre: Contemporary Christian Suspense
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: February 4, 2020
Number of Pages: 400

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Three years ago, a collision between a fast-moving freight train and a school bus full of kids led to devastation and grief on an unimaginable scale. But a fresh clue leads San Antonio police detective Amara Alvarez to the unlikely conclusion that one of the children may still be alive. If she’s correct, everything law enforcement believes about the accident is a lie.

With time running out, Amara must convince others–and herself–that despite all evidence to the contrary, the boy lives. And she will do everything in her power to bring him home.

A fresh voice in suspense, Tom Threadgill will have you questioning everything as you fly through the pages of this enthralling story.

PRAISE FOR COLLISION OF LIES:
Threadgill plunges a detective from the San Antonio Property Crimes Division into a deep-laid plot involving murder, kidnapping, and myriad other crimes above her pay grade.”
— Kirkus Review
 

“I have a new favorite author. Tom Threadgill kept me reading for hours. I didn’t want to put this book down . . . couldn’t put it down. I absolutely adore Amara Alvarez and her relationships with her coworkers, friends, and her iguana! Now I want one. She was a heroine who made me laugh and one I could really relate to. I can think of a few words to describe this book: amazing, incredible, intriguing, mesmerizing, unputdownable. . . I could go on, but I need to stop so I can go buy up the entire backlist of my new favorite author.”  

Lynette Eason, award-winning, bestselling author of the Blue Justice Series
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Review

Four Stars

Author Tom Threadgill’s latest entry into the suspense/thriller genre, Collision of Lies, is set in my home town of San Antonio, Texas. That alone was enough to pull me in! But Threadgill offers so much more than just familiar locales, he’s written an enthralling story of a horrible accident involving a school bus filled with seventeen children all of whom are killed when the bus collides with a fast moving freight train. All the evidence points to an open and shut case. Every investigative agency comes to the same conclusion… a terrible tragedy that results in unimaginable grief by the parents of those unfortunate kids, but nothing that would indicate a crime.

Three years later a text that may have come from one of the deceased children, a note of apology left on the windshield of a car, and a series of seemingly unrelated murders all cause a property crime detective, Amara Alvarez, to reconsider that conclusion. Was everything that law enforcement believes to be true a lie? Her focus should be on a series of burglaries occurring in Leon Valley, but Amara becomes convinced that something is amiss, and she sets out to uncover the truth.

The only thing you can trust is the evidence.

Amara is initially reluctant to get involved. She doesn’t want to give anyone false hope, and should her inquiry result in a media circus, her hopes of one day transferring to Homicide could be crushed forever. But Marisa Reyes is convinced that her son Benjamin is alive, and Amara’s empathy for the grieving mother keeps nagging at her. There are so many plausible scenarios as to what happened, none of which point to kidnapping or murder, but if Mrs. Reyes’ instincts are right, Amara is about to find herself uncovering a conspiracy that could only have been orchestrated at the highest levels.

You’ll see. Everybody lies, either intentionally or because of their skewed point of view. the witnesses. The suspects. Even the victims sometimes. Investigating a murder isn’t like anything else. Every player has their own agenda.

The plot is intricate with twists and turns that will keep the reader engrossed from start to finish. Without giving away too many details, that bus wreck in Cotulla, Texas will lead to international intrigue and cross-border operations to bring Benjamin Reyes home.

Besides the suspense and the intrigue, Threadgill creates characters that are relatable, interesting, and often humorous. Homicide Detective Jeremiah “Starsky” Peckham loves junk food, possibly Amara, and is her contact within the San Antonio Police Department’s Homicide Division. Dr. Douglas Pritchard, the Medical Examiner, is an eccentric who eats cheetos with chopsticks and delivers insights into the origins of oft-repeated phrases at the most inopportune moments. Sara Colby is a Texas Ranger called upon to assist Amara when it becomes apparent that she might be in way over her head, and she just happens to find the ME very alluring in spite of his eccentricities. Wylie Dotson works with Amara in Property Crimes, but when he gets invited to her family’s weekly dinners, she begins to worry about her mother’s attraction to the detective. And then… there’s Larry, Amara’s pet iguana! He is both her companion and sounding board.

When I get stressed, I talk to my iguana.

These relationships bring everything together and propel the story to its exciting conclusion. However, this is only book one with Tom Threadgill providing a sneak peek into the next case for Amara Alvarez.  If it’s anything like Collision of Lies, it’s sure be another mesmerizing reading experience.

I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Tom Threadgill is a full-time author and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). He is currently on the suspense/thriller publishing board for LPC Books, a division of Iron Stream Media. He lives with his wife in rural Tennessee.
 
 

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Print the Legend – The Life and Times of John Ford: My Review

Print the Legend Book CoverI do not often read biographies. In fact, I can only think of two in recent years, this book and Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, both given to me by my son Sean, who knows of my love of history and my admiration for John Ford’s movies. Both are detailed accounts; Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton is a daunting 995 pages, while Scot Eyman’s Print the Legend runs 660 pages. I guess he also understands my love of reading!

Print the legend has its origin in Ford’s last great western, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. In the film Jimmy Stewart’s character, Senator Ransom Stoddard, returns to the town where his political career began to bury his old friend, Tom Doniphan (played by actor John Wayne.) The senator’s fame as the man who shot and killed the stagecoach robber Liberty Valance is a lie, and Stoddard comes back not only to pay tribute to his friend but to finally reveal the truth that it was Doniphan who killed Valance (portrayed on screen by the actor Lee Marvin,) not him. However, the truth is never printed. The newspaper editor interviewing the senator kills the story, with the now famous line, “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” Just as the myth of the Old West is what people want to remember, it is the myth that surrounds John Ford that moviegoers most want to associate with one of cinema’s greatest directors.

After this motion picture, John Ford was no longer the master  of his craft; age and infirmity had taken its toll. With illness (cancer) overwhelming him, he no longer had the energy to direct movies that so vividly depicted early American life. He had created the mythology of westward expansion and the transition from wilderness to civilization using beautiful landscapes and richly drawn characters who embodied the spirit of the new nation; so much so that Ford became known as “the man that invented America.”

His genius lay in his ability to visualize the scene in his head, positioning the camera in the right spot (never moving it) to recreate that scene, minimizing dialogue, and manipulating actors to achieve the desired performance in one take. He could be a tyrant, humiliating even the biggest names in show business to get the performance that he desired.

Ford also demanded total loyalty from his cast and in return used the same actors in multiple movies often carrying them on the payroll for an entire shoot regardless of how small or even non-existent their role was in the finished film. Contradict or question him on set, however, and though he would outwardly remain your friend, you might never again work in another one of his projects.

Scott Leyman doesn’t spare the reader the many inconsistencies between the man and the legend. Ford was an alcoholic who would go on binges that left him totally incoherent. He was stereo typically Irish, subject to melancholy and self-doubt.  The son of a bartender from Maine, he never felt at ease in society, and created a persona that didn’t care about anyone’s opinion but his own. He could be cruel, crude, arrogant and snobbish, but underneath that facade was a very private sentimental old man that simply didn’t know how to relate to the people he most loved. A Roman Catholic, Ford never considered divorce from his wife of over fifty years, Mary, though he apparently had both flings and affairs with other women, most notably Katherine Hepburn. He was estranged from his son Pat and would later disinherit him, while he indulged his daughter Barbara in spite of her alcoholism. Politically he was thought to be a die-hard conservative, while in fact he was a life-long Democrat and liberal. He filmed many of his movies in Monument Valley using Navajo Indians to portray Apache, Comanche, and Cheyenne. It didn’t matter. He saw the plight of the Navajo Nation and tried to assist it economically by using the locale over and over casting the same people each time. He argued against racism in his masterpiece, The Searchers, and strongly advocated equality and dignity towards the black race in the film Sergeant Rutledge.

In many regards these films reflect the political realities of Vietnam and the changing attitudes and tastes of his viewing audience in the 1960s. The public desire for movies that glorified the Old West had been replaced by the demand for a more nuanced portrayal of the events and those involved in them. Ironically, it led John Ford to dismantle the very mythology that he had created in his earlier movies.

There is absolutely no way that I can capture the essence of John Ford in this post. His career and filmography spanned several decades, 1914-1971. He remains the most decorated film director of all time, winning six Academy Awards. He received the Purple Heart Medal for wounds suffered during the Battle of Midway in WWII, and rose to the rank of Admiral in the Navy. Prior to his death August 31, 1973, he became the first recipient of the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the President of the United States.

I wrote previously of his influence on my decision to write my western novel, Palo Duro:

The western genre no longer holds the public’s attention as it once did in cinema and published media. But I grew up in the age of Director John Ford and his rousing tributes to the U.S. cavalry in the film trilogy “Fort Apache,” She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” and “Rio Grande,” as well as his homage to one of the most recognized icons of the Old West, Wyatt Earp, in the classic film “My Darling Clementine.”

I have watched John Ford’s movies countless times in my youth and into my adult life, and there is no doubt that they have left a lasting legacy not only on me, but on the motion picture industry. After reading Scott Eyman’s book, I now know many details about Ford’s private life that are contradictory to my image of him, but while it has often been said that “familiarity breeds contempt,” I prefer to remember his towering achievements.

“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Femme Fatale

The origins of the sexually attractive woman who sets out to seduce men for her own purposes can be found in ancient biblical and historical texts as well as in classical literature. The temptress Delilah is cited in the 16th chapter of the Book of Judges in the Old Testament as the means by which the Philistines discovered the source of the Israelite Sampson’s strength. The first century historian Josephus writes of Salome, the stepdaughter of Herod Antipas, who demanded the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter in exchange for an erotic dance on Herod’s birthday. Even Greek mythology speaks of half-birds, half-maidens whose “siren song” lured sailors to a rocky shore and certain death. In Homer’s “The Odyssey,” Odysseus has his men tie him to the mast of his ship so that he can experience the allure of the Sirens without succumbing to their temptations.

However, that sultry allure, sex or the promise of sex, characteristically results in either a lifetime of regret or self-destruction. Deliberate seduction is a weapon that draws some men into compromising and even dangerous situations leading to their downfall or death. There’s a price to pay for the pleasures of the flesh – loss of one’s manhood,  manipulation and commission of acts on the woman’s behalf that can result in blackmail or even murder, and choices that compromise or even endanger the lives of others.

The seductress has existed throughout history and has often been used as a plot device in literature. In my latest book, a novella of the Salvadoran civil war, the fictional character Diana Montego (an urban guerrilla) serves that purpose.

She was exposed to training like any other recruit, learning weaponry, explosives, tactics, and strategic objectives under Nidia’s tutelage. These were all secondary, however, to her sexuality, and she was soon given her mission. Use her looks and wiles to find and seduce an American staying at the Hotel Presidente. The endgame, of course, would not be this one individual. Her task was to get inside, become totally familiar with the layout of the hotel, and specifically identify the rooms where the American advisers were lodged. To be successful, she would need to use all her womanly skills. That it proved so easy was a surprise both to Diana and the FMLN leadership. — Excerpt from Tarnished Brass.

Follow Diana’s story and learn more about American involvement in the war and the repercussions that continue to affect the United States and this small Central American country.

 

 

The Soccer War

SoccerSoccer arrived in Latin America in the 1800s. In the beginning it was primarily played by affluent Europeans, but was soon adopted by people from all socio-economic classes bridging the divide between the ruling elites and the indigenous population.

As a cultural institution, it quickly became synonymous with national identity and disputes on the field of play frequently resulted in violence between players, fans, and in extreme cases even countries.

The visible displays of nationalism include flag waving, national anthems, even colorful clothing. They are an expression of the emotional attachment that individuals feel for their teams. So when deliberate physical injury to a player or perceived bias by referees alter the outcome of games, fan violence is inevitable. Add to that political tensions between the governments of the competing teams, and international competitions have even led to war. Such was the case in 1969 between the neighboring Central American countries of El Salvador and Honduras.

The Soccer War (sometimes referred to as the 100 Hours War) was fueled by extreme national pride. Violence erupted between fans during the first two 1970 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches. The teams split the first two contests spawning yet greater tumult between the two fan bases as the third and deciding match approached.

Tensions had been building for months between the two governments over new immigration laws in Honduras that stripped land ownership from Salvadoran citizens settling in that country. The expulsion of over eleven thousand such immigrants and migrant workers just happened to coincide with the timing between the first and second games. Citing Honduran nationalism and fan violence as the reason for its action, El Salvador severed all diplomatic ties with its neighbor and deployed soldiers onto Honduran soil.

The war was brief, beginning on July 14, 1969, and ending on July 20, 1969, with a cease-fire negotiated by the Organization of American States (OAS). El Salvador initially demanded that Honduras agree to reparations for those Salvadorans who had been displaced and assurances of fair treatment for those settlers who chose to remain. It finally withdrew its forces on August 2, 1969, after promises of protection for its citizens on Honduran soil.

The dispute simmered long after the Salvadoran soccer team defeated Honduras 3-2 in the final qualifying match in Mexico City and long after cessation of hostilities between the two armies. A final peace treaty would not be signed until October 30, 1980. — Excerpt from Tarnished Brass.

 

 

 

The Doctrine of Liberation Theology

The arrival of European powers and the conquest of Latin America by Spain and Portugal that began in the 15th century aligned the ruling elite and the Roman Catholic Church. Indigenous peoples were not only subjugated, they were taught that their suffering was the will of God and that they should accept their earthly existence, which included forced labor, poverty, and oppression. Their liberation from these conditions would only come in the afterlife if they remained faithful and accepted their fate.

However, by the 20th century calls for both social and political change caused the Church to transition towards an acknowledgement that it had a role in helping the poor and underprivileged. Rather than just focusing on their souls, it began advocating “the power of man to determine his own destiny.” This radical shift in doctrine became known as Liberation Theology.

In the small Central American country of El Salvador clerics not only spoke out about the impoverished conditions under which most Salvadorans labored, but advocated rising up in confrontation to the authorities. One of the more outspoken voices was that of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero.

The Archbishop vocally preached against the repression of the underprivileged calling upon all Christians including the military dictatorship to heed Jesus’ teachings regarding social and economic justice. In his final sermon the Archbishop urgently petitioned those in power to alter course. In the name of God and this suffering population, whose cries reach to the heavens more tumultuous each day, I beg you, I beseech you, I order you, in the name of God, cease the repression.

His words were met by a sniper’s bullet to the heart. Archbishop Romero became the first Catholic bishop killed in a church since Thomas Becket was slain at Canterbury in 1170. He was canonized and declared a saint October 14, 2018.

Archbishop Romero’s assassination galvanized a fledgling FMLN guerrilla movement in El Salvador resulting in a brutal civil war that lasted from 1980-1992. My latest book Tarnished Brass looks at that war and all its causes and ramifications, spotlighting American involvement in the conflict and the ongoing struggle in El Salvador that to this day continues to impact the immigration crisis on our southern border and the spread of MS-13 gang violence throughout the United States.

Look for it on Amazon and at other major online retail book stores.