Affiliated Networks



Latest Activity

Mark de Castrique posted an event

Malaprop's Bookstore at Malaprop's

November 9, 2015 from 7pm to 8pm
Presenting new Sam Blackman mystery A SPECTER OF JUSTICESee More
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

A Chronology of Asheville and WNC Events in History

                                   IMPORTANT DATES IN ASHEVILLE HISTORY                                                                 by Rob Neufeld 1000: The Cherokee, who’d introduced maize agriculture to the region, began cultivating beans. 1540: Hernando De Soto led troops to East Tennessee through either the Hickory Nut or Swannanoa Gap, finding gold and copper and inspiring a succession of Spanish miners. 1663: Charles II bestows territory between the 31st and 36th parallels in America…See More
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Root-diggers of Appalachia

People in the Lost Provinces were herb-gatherersby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Three herbal products offered by S.B. Penick’s, once the world’s largest herb distributor, its largest warehouse located in Asheville.             “Last week, during a research trip to the ‘Lost Provinces,’” Luke Manget said about the landscape…See More
Mark de Castrique posted a video

A Specter of Justice Preview

A Preview of the new Sam Blackman mystery to be released November 3, 2015
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

"Us versus Them" does not help fight against racism; worsens sectionalism

“Us versus them” is not good historyby Rob Neufeld             Writing about history and the complex lives that play out within it does not sell as well as team spirit, especially in this age of clicks and likes.            I recently confronted this truth when I wrote my article last week about the minds of our leaders in 1851. The word “slavery” was added to the headline to alert people to its relevance.  Seeing that term connected people to a cause they felt strongly about, particularly in…See More
Sep 27
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Player of Games and the Millennial Mind

Player of Games reveals today’s game-changing mentalityby Rob Neufeld             There is something big happening in Millennial Generation literature, and I thought I’d try to get a handle on it.            To give an idea of one aspect of current thinking: I was at a gathering recently, plenty of youngsters, and I…See More
Sep 27
Julia Nunnally Duncan posted an event

Julia Nunnally Duncan Book Signing at MACA Building

October 10, 2015 from 9am to 1pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will sign her books at the McDowell Arts Council Association (MACA) Booth at the annual Mountain Glory Festival on Saturday, October 10 from 9-1.See More
Sep 22
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Sep 22
Ann Miller Woodford shared their photo on Facebook
Sep 21
Ann Miller Woodford posted a photo

Deacon Chrisenberry -Berry- Howell (1855-1938) on horseback. From the collection of Purel Miller (2)

My maternal great grandfather, Chrisenberry Howell, who was called "Berry" Howell in Swain County. From the Purel Miller collection. Submitted by Ann Miller Woodford
Sep 21
James D. Loy posted a blog post

The skull merchant, the dead ape, and the narcoleptic mortician

Hello "The Read on WNC" readers:     I'm posting this note to announce the publication of vol. 3 in my "Loy's Loonies" series.  This one is called The Mortician's Road Trip and it's a bit more of a mystery than my earlier books. Here's a teaser for the story.     Upstate New Yorker Baz Rathbone makes ends meet by selling human skulls. By contract, he should cremate them, but he doesn’t. His little business comes to the attention of the FBI when a woman spots her late husband’s skull being used…See More
Sep 20
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Sep 19
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Sep 19
Ann Miller Woodford replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Terra Incognita: An Annotated Bibliography of the Great Smoky Mountains
"That East Tennessee Christian Association of Friends comment, especially bothered me, but it clarifies the view some folks from outside the region have about us even to this day.   … average intelligence...below that of colored…"
Sep 8
Ann Miller Woodford updated their profile
Sep 8
Carol Anders posted an event

FREUD'S LAST SESSION by Mark St. Germain at All Souls Cathedral Parrish Hall / Biltmore Village

October 4, 2015 from 7pm to 9pm
It is a "sharp, lively discourse, and audience members searching for engaging debate will be pleased, St. Germain's script is astute, and the humor is plentiful."-NY Times. Sigmund Freud invites C. S. Lewis to his home in London  ...they clash about sex, love, the existence of God and the meaning of life - just weeks before Freud took his own life. This play reveals the minds, hearts and souls of two brilliant men.  Afterwards a time to "talk back" with The Very Rev. Todd Donatelli and Dr. Mary…See More
Sep 8

Burnsville novelist explores Old West serial murders

by Rob Neufeld

[See full interview with Charles Price]


            Charles Price—originally of Clay County; then of Washington, D.C.; and now of Burnsville—has never been politically correct, as far as I know.

            Nor has he ever been a sensationalist.  His quartet of novels set in fictionalized Clay County from the Civil War up through the early 20th century portray, with penetrating honesty, a wide range of low and high characters involved in historical conflicts. 

In this way, his work is most akin to the novels of John Ehle.

            His fifth published novel, “Nor the Battle to the Strong,” reveals his heroic temperament, as he follows the exploits and thoughts of a Quaker Revolutionary War general and a local private. 

            Lately, he has turned to westerns, which means they’re set in the Old West, a place to which he’d originally formed an attraction as a kid, watching Roy Rogers on TV, he revealed in an interview.


Season of Terror


            Today, Price settles in the saddle of his office chair with more philosophy and grit than “True Grit.” 

            His new book, “Season of Terror,” the first thorough examination of the Espinosas, serial murderers in Civil War-era Colorado, contains horror and tragedy, but also moments of grace and scene-circling post-mortems.

            Price has as many questions as answers as he tries to avoid the traps of interpretation.  Such traps had led the relatives and neighbors of the Espinosas’ mutilated victims to form a posse and hang and torture innocent suspects.

            It seems that Price, throughout his career, has exerted a minister’s attempt to bring full understanding to communities seized by worst case scenarios.

            I asked him how he got attracted to his latest subject.

            One day in the 1990s, he told me, he was leafing through a book about Old West firearms, when he saw “a photograph of a man dressed in a fancy, fringed buckskin coat, holding a percussion-cap Hawken plains rifle.” 

            The caption said it was of a plainsman named Tom Tobin who had killed and beheaded two of the Espinosas.  (No spoiler alerts in non-fiction!)

            “Despite my familiarity with the history of the frontier,” Price explained, “I had never heard of Tobin or the Espinosas and immediately wanted to know more of the story.”  He came to learn that no reliable book-length account of the episode existed, so he went on a hunt.  

            “The more sources I found,” he related, “the more fascinating the story became.  Because the Espinosas were Hispanic and devout Catholics and had announced that their purpose was to kill all the Anglos in Colorado Territory, the incident raised all sorts of religious, ethnic and political issues, some of which have resonance today.”


Posse time


            Now, let’s back up—because “Season of Terror” has fiction-like, suspenseful elements.  There’s a progression and there are resonances.

            In his introduction, Price outlines the story: three Mexican-Americans—the Espinosa brothers, Felipe and José, and their nephew, José Vincente—killed and mutilated 32 victims before being exterminated eight months after their spree had started. 

            Many reasons have been proposed for the Espinosas’ barbarity.  One of the compelling factors is that, two months before the first act of terrorism (is it accurate to call it that?), the Espinosas, New Mexico natives, “were assaulted in their homes by troops of the US Army.  Before then, they appear to have been no more dangerous than run-of-the-mill, small-time bandidos.”

            Does the connection to modern day jihads provide “sufficient reasons to pluck the dread Espinosas from the dustbin of history and parade their massacres before the reader?” 

            Price answers yes—“not simply because the Espinosas were verifiably the worst serial killers in frontier history,” but also because “theories and ideologies can never explain everything, that in the final analysis the human heart is always an insoluble mystery.”


Vendetta and vengeance


            Chapter 1 reveals the first murder.  Henry Harkens, a 55-year-old former gold prospector, who had settled the “wildly beautiful but brooding and lonely” Saw Mill Gulch, was found dead in his cabin, “his head split open with an ax and two ugly gashes in his left breast.”

            By Chapter 3, we are hearing all the chatter—witnesses, lawmen, newspapermen, rumor-mongers—as a cavalryman’s brother becomes the latest victim.  The killers’ identities are still unknown; a lynching sentiment forms.

            You feel like you’re reading a combination of Cormac McCarthy’s “No Country for Old Men” and Walter Van Tilburg Clark’s “The Ox-Bow Incident.”  Except that “Season of Terror” is history and essay, and keeps stepping back to examine not only the evidence but also the historiography.

            In the final chapters, Price lays out a series of multiple endings for his story. 

            First, there’s the plot-driven ending: Tom Tobin kills and decapitates the Espinosas.  Then there’s a focus on Tobin’s character—a surprising tale of tenderness lurking within a hardened man.

            By the way, Price presents a great photo of Tobin, as well as photos of other subjects, including the brooding setting.

            Three chapters follow the Tobin chapters—one featuring a puzzling historian; a second serving as a postscript on Tobin; and the third and last discussing “alternate theories.”


Fiction v. non-fiction


            I asked Price about the novelistic aspects of his non-fiction.

            “I actually first took up the Espinosa story as a novelist,” Price revealed.  “I wrote a mammoth 600-page manuscript entitled ‘Blood Offerings.’…I still hope, if ‘Season of Terror’ does well, that I might be able to sell the novel eventually.”

            “After completing ‘Blood Offerings,’” Price continued, “I decided that, since I had found no single authoritative historical source on the Espinosas, I would try to write the history source that I had sought but never found during my research for the novel.”

            How does his history book compare to his fictional treatment?

            “The novel has multiple endings too,” Price said.  Also, “the cast of characters in both books is so diverse and representative of the races and social standings of the time and place, it seems like a cross-section of frontier life to me.

            “I was especially drawn to the female characters in the novel—Felipe's crippled but beautiful wife Secundina; Tobin's adoring wife Maria Pascuala; and his mistress, Dominga, with one foot in the Navajo world and one in the Anglo-Hispano world of Tobin. 

            “I used one of the real-life hunters for the Espinosas as a major character in the novel— Fremont County Sheriff Egbert Bradley, who is fascinated and repelled by the possible motives of the killers and ends by being drawn into their world. 

            “The real-life destinies are so much more poignant than anything I could have invented,” he concluded.



Season of Terror: The Espinosa’s in Central Colorado, March-October 1863 by Charles F. Price (University Press of Colorado hardcover, May 2013, 351 pages, $34.95).



Charles Price presents his book at Malaprop’s Bookstore today at 3 p.m.  Call 254-6734.  He will be a featured author at the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival in Burnsville, Sept. 6 – 8.



See the complete interview with Price on “The Read on WNC.”  See Price’s blog, including a report on his recent book tour in Colorado, on his website at

Views: 96

Reply to This

© 2015   Created by Rob Neufeld.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service