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Joe Epley posted a blog post

Military Writers Society of America

Joe Epley recently was elected to Board of Directors of the Military Writers Society of America.  The MWSA has around 700 members around the country. Details on the website: http://www.mwsadispatches.com.  ; The organization's purpose is to help military service members, veterans, their families, supporters of the military,and historians record history and the complexities of military life--and encourage writing as therapy. The…See More
3 hours ago
susannah eanes commented on Rob Neufeld's blog post The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1
"So chuffed about this! Sadly, I won't be there except in spirit. Andrea Wulf is a force of nature, herself. Her amazing work The Brother Gardeners should be made into a feature-length film - the characters live and breathe again between the…"
yesterday
Evelyn Asher updated their profile
yesterday
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1

Author of key book of our times comes to AshevilleAndrea Wulf makes Malaprop's Bookstore one her stops, Sun., May 1, 5 p.m., in talking about her thrilling work of non-fiction, The Invention of Nature: Alexander von…See More
yesterday
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

Salman Rushdie to Asheville with new novel

Atheist believes in genies, novel revealsby Rob Neufeld             Salman Rushdie’s latest novel—“Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” (1,001 nights)—has permitted me to come up with a headline as wild as the one above because the book is so exuberantly and infectiously…See More
Apr 25
Julia Nunnally Duncan updated their profile
Apr 25
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Apr 23
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

8th Annual Blue Ridge Bookfest Apr 22-23

The 8th Annual Blue Ridge Bookfest brings authors to Flat Rock There are a few oases where writers congregate to share wares and wisdom, and Apr. 22-23, the place is Blue Ridge Community College, featuring 19 readings and workshops, and many more opportunities for conversations with authors at exhibition tables.  See full schedule at…See More
Apr 20
Toby Hill posted a blog post

Asheville- The Way I Remember It- Hester

I have posted a new blog about a man I knew growing up in Asheville. It is entitled " Hester." Anna says guys will like it better than women. It's pretty long, but enjoy it.HESTERGrowing up in Asheville in N.C. in the 50’s and 60’s seemed, at the time, to be filled with a rhythm of adventure and strange encounters sprinkled with an assortment of particularly interesting and somewhat odd characters. One of those persons who fascinated me as a child was my father’s friend “Hester. “ My dad was…See More
Apr 19
Frank Thompson posted an event
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Frank Thompson at Yancey History Association

April 19, 2016 at 6pm to April 19, 2017 at 7pm
There is a permanent exhibit at the Yancy History Association in Burnsville devoted to the film "Then I'll Come Back to You" (1916) which was produced in nearby Pensacola. It's a small exhibit but well curated and filled with great photographs and other memorabilia of this century-old film.See More
Apr 19
Sharon Freeman Pace replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Jerry Steinberg--Asheville history, contrarian views, new book
"In the 60's, early 70's, one of my uncles on my mothers side worked as a groundskeeper for Mr. Sternberg. I remember our driving up to the "castle" and my sister asking my aunt where the moat was.I also remember touching the…"
Apr 19
nancy dillingham replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Interview with Ron Rash on occasion of 2016 Selected & New Poems
"A wonderful discussion on craft, Rob!"
Apr 17
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Apr 16
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Interview with Ron Rash on occasion of 2016 Selected & New Poems

Something unseen stirs the words in Ron Rash poemsby Rob Neufeld             Ron Rash, award-winning novelist and short story writer, is also an acclaimed and accomplished poet.  His new book, “Poems: New and Selected” (HarperCollins) draws from six volumes and adds eight new poems.  He comes to Malaprop’s…See More
Apr 15
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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Fred Chappell to Present His New Fantasy Novel at City Lights Bookstore

May 13, 2016 from 6:30pm to 8pm
Poet and novelist, Fred Chappell will return to City Lights Bookstore on Friday, May 13th at 6:30 p.m. to read from and sign his new fantasy novel. In A Shadow All of Light, a young man sets off on a journey to become the apprentice of a master shadow thief. His mysterious master challenges him with difficult mental and physical tests, setting in motion adventures with con men, monsters, ingenious detection, cats, and pirates.Fred Chappell is a former professor of English at the University of…See More
Apr 12
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

A Shadow of All Light by Fred Chappell

Literary master evokes classic fantasy taleby Rob Neufeld             Let’s say you’re going to a book fair, and a guy with a long grey beard and glittering eye stops you at the entrance.  He points to worn and rebound books he’s laid out on a table: Gulliver’s Travels; The Story of Sir Launcelot; The Three…See More
Apr 10

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.

 

THE BOOK

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).

 

EVENT

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.

 

LEARN MORE

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 www.charlesfprice.com.

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