Four books of the year - The Explorer: Editorials

Four books of the year

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Posted: Wednesday, December 22, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 8:18 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

The following all deal with Arizona, and all but one are by local authors.

The Killing Shot, by Johnny Boggs PB, 2010 Pinnacle Books, www.Kensingtonbooks.com

New Mexico’s Johnny Boggs is his generation’s Louis L’Amour. Some like him better. Either way, he’s in the all-time front rank of western novelists. If Hollywood still knew how to make a real western, we’d know him a lot better. His latest effort combines the art of the novelist with the knowledge of the real historian.

You’ll catch snatches of L’Amour, Elmore Leonard and a little of the great Cotton Smith in this admitted conversion of “White Heat” into 1880s Arizona. Boggs also knows about the real West, and that there was more than 1873 Colts and Winchesters out here. In this one, the hero carries the obscure Evans rifle. He’s also aware that frontier women did a lot more than tell Matt Dillon to be careful. His characters are believable because his bad guys are just a bit good and his good guys a little bad.

Mattie, by E.C. (Ted) Meyers  PB, 2010 Hancock House www.Hancockhouse.com

Canadian Ted Meyers adds one more piece of decent scholarship to Earpomania with a biography of Wyatt’s “secret second wife.” Meyers doggedly chased down court records and proved that Wyatt and Morgan Earp were busted in Illinois for running hookers, one of which was Wyatt’s common law wife Mattie. Dumped much later in Tombstone for the younger and more respectable Josephine Sarah Marcus, it was Josie who wanted no mention of Wyatt’s early life or her own living with Cochise County Sheriff John Behan.

Mattie died an apparent suicide working as prostitute in Pinal, Ariz., in 1888, lonely and forgotten. Meyers gives us a fine supplement to the Earp saga.

Pancho Villa, by Ben F. Williams Jr., PB Smokin Z Press, Tucson

 Former Douglas Mayor Ben Williams lets you know which way he stands on the subject of this combination biography and family memoir by the subtitle – “A Lifetime of Vengeance.” Williams’ family has lived and ranched in Southern Arizona and Northern Mexico since the late 19th Century and his family had personal encounters with Villa.

Those combined with considerable research on both sides of the border will lead any objective observer to the same conclusion Williams gives – Doroteo Arango, aka Pancho Villa, was a thug.

Like Che Guevera, Villa has improved his image over the years with naïve armchair revolutionaries who fail to notice that both were sociopaths who personally enjoyed executing folks themselves. Biggest difference was that Villa was a more competent guerilla fighter, one of the many things you will discover in Williams’ well-written book.

At some point you will probably ask why we have a statute of this gangster in the center of downtown Tucson.

 Death Clouds on Mount Baldy, by Cathy Hufault, PB 2011 Arizona Mountain Publications, www.arizonamtn.com

In November of 1958, a rare Arctic blizzard hit southern Arizona. Many suffered inconvenience, others much more. It trapped six Boy Scouts on Mount Baldy.

After a massive rescue effort, three ultimately survived, one of them the author’s brother. Three didn’t. This is the poignantly written and compelling story of that tragedy by someone who was a young observer of it.

Cathy Hufault served as mayor of Oro Valley in the 1980s, and now resides in Vail. She tells a personal story ably and adds another chapter to our local history.

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