Archive for the ‘US Southwest’ Category

THE COLOR OF NIGHT by Madison Smartt Bell

I have chosen this rather longer quotation to show how Madison Smartt Bell can turn on a dime between a realistic description of a California druggie cult in the late sixties to an evocation of the revels of Dionysian maenads from the earliest age of Greek mythology. The link here is an acid trip, but Bell does not need chemicals to effect his alchemy. In 2001, when the book opens, the narrator Mae is a middle-aged croupier in a Las Vegas area casino. Bell’s description is realistic and immediate: “Only the whirl of lights and the electronic burbling of machines, rattle of dice in the craps table cups, and almost inaudible whisper of cards, the friction-free hum of roulette wheels turning.” But two sentences later, he has already made the shift: “It was a sort of fifth-rate hell, and I a minor demon posted to it. A succubus too indifferent to suck.”

April 6, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, California, Contemporary, New York City, US Southwest, y Award Winning Author

OLD BORDER ROAD by Susan Froderberg

Dozens of books have promised the sentiment “for lovers of Cormac McCarthy” and left me sorely disappointed. But, in this claim, Froderberg is truly McCarthy’s literary offspring, echoing his hot, haunting brand of southwest essence, desert landscape, and gothic narrative elixir, if not yet fully capturing his linguistic sublimity and lethal, graveyard humor. In this ambitious debut novel, the author explores desperate and broken souls living through a drought in southern Arizona—a land of sand and scrub, cactus stands, spiny shrubs, bitterbrush, dusty maiden, diamondbacks, rodeos, distant foothills, punishing climate, and an endless starlit sky.

December 9, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Debut Novel, Theme driven, US Southwest, Wild West

CROSSERS by Philip Caputo

I dashed out to buy Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, Philip Caputo’s, latest novel, CROSSERS, after reading an enthusiastic review in my local newspaper. I was unfamiliar with this author, but I was intrigued by the promise of a burly border tale. I was not disappointed. This is a generational saga and epic of the southwest, bristling with illegal border crossers and warring drug cartels, studded with outlaws and vaqueros. A dense book, it starts rather slowly, gradually lassoing the reader into a complex, emotional story brittle with sepulchral secrets and spilling with scoured grief.

October 21, 2010 · Judi Clark · 2 Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: US Southwest, Wild West, y Award Winning Author

HALF BROKE HORSES by Jeannette Walls

Jeannette Walls is a natural-born storyteller. In her memoir THE GLASS CASTLE, she described in fascinating detail what it meant to be the daughter of Rose Mary and Rex, perhaps two of the most dysfunctional individuals on the planet, brainy underachievers who raised their bevy of children in a most unconventional way.

By the end of that book, Jeannette was on her way to graduating from BARNARD COLLEGE and becoming a celebrated journalist in New York City. I exited the book wanting to know more and in ways, HALF BROKE HORSES goes back to the well, helping readers understand the forces that shaped her mother Rose Mary.

September 18, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: Facing History, Family Matters, US Southwest, Wild West


Every now and then, a “stealth book” comes along – one that surprises you, captures you in its grip, and doesn’t let go until you turn the last page. THE GHOST OF MILAGRO CREEK is such a book.


I expected this book to be something else entirely – a light mystery about two blood brothers who vied for the same gringo girl in the Cain-and-Abel tradition. In reality, the book is lyrical, poignant, and from time to time, electrifying. It depicts the life of the Taos barrio colorfully and – in my mind – authentically.

July 7, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Reading Guide, US Southwest, Wild West, y Award Winning Author


Darren Bennett likes to draw. This hobby makes him insecure 1) because he’s a sophomore in high school and he’s insecure about everything, and 2) because he knows that whatever he draws will result in a false label: “If you’re drawing the female figure, you’re a pervert. If you’re drawing the male figure, you’re gay. If you’re drawing superheroes and haven’t gotten around to drawing the masks or capes or whatever yet, you’re gay.” Nevertheless, it provides a fantastical escape from his increasing isolationism in an unremarkable Arizona suburb where he lives with his good-natured but neglectful father and complete hooligan of a brother, an arrangement that resulted when his “mom kind of went haywire.” When fellow outcast Eric Lederer compliments one of Darren’s drawings after class, a friendship forms that leads to “the biggest mistake of [his] life” and perhaps the worst false label of all. From a perfectly executed prologue to a thrilling sci-fi finish, DC Pierson’s debut novel will undoubtedly captivate readers and remind them of the limitless potential of the coming-of-age novel.

February 6, 2010 · Judi Clark · 2 Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Coming-of-Age, Debut Novel, Humorous, Literary, Scifi, US Southwest