WELCOME STEVEN W. KOHLHAGEN
STEVEN W. KOHLAGEN
Steve Kohlhagen is a former, now retired, Economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, a retired Wall Street investment banker, and is on several corporate boards, most recently elected to the board of Freddie Mac. While at Berkeley he authored many economics publications, and he and his wife Gale jointly published the murder mystery “Tiger Found” under their pen name Steven Gale in 2008.
Kohlhagen was inspired to write his latest book “Where They Bury You” after reading Hampton Sides’ “Blood and Thunder,” a non-fiction history of Kit Carson and the West. Sides’ reporting of the factual murder of Marshal Joseph Cummings on August 18, 1863 led Kohlhagen to conduct further research on Carson and Cummings, including at the National
Archives. He also pulled from his own knowledge of the West, as the writer divides his time between the New Mexico-Colorado border high in the San Juan Mountains and Charleston, South Carolina.
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Q&A with Steven W. Kohlhagen
After a successful career in academia and on Wall Street, what made you want to write a historical fiction novel?
I love the West and I love murder mysteries. I read a passage in Hampton Sides’
excellent book “Blood and Thunder” (nonfiction) about the August 1863 murder of a U.S.
Marshal in the New Mexico territory that I felt Kit Carson had misreported. Intensive research led me to write this fictionalized historical account of that murder during the American Civil War, Apache Wars and Navajo War. I have a passion for truth that includes the injustices heaped on the Southwestern Indians, especially Cochise, and what I feel is history’s mis-characterization of the roles of Kit Carson and the Navajo themselves.
How does your living among the San Juan Mountains influence your writing and details of “Where They Bury You”?
Coincidentally, the (white man’s) history of the area northwest of Santa Fe and Taos into south central Colorado essentially began at the time of Cummings murder. One hundred fifty years later, we live among the descendants of the Jicarilla Apaches, Utes, Navajos, ranchers, and explorers of our area. The appearances in the book of the original scout of this area, Albert Pfeiffer, are historically accurate, and we later discovered that he is buried about forty miles from our home.
A murder mystery based on a true story from the Western Indian wars, how did you wind up with a former prostitute and current poker dealer as the main character?
By accident. Given that the two historically accurate main characters were known
gamblers and womanizers, and that 1861 Santa Fe was basically a church surrounded by a
collection of bordellos, gambling halls, and saloons, it wasn’t much of a stretch to imagine a character like Lily Smoot who they would both know. The accident part was that she, literally, took the evolving story out of my hands and head, and took over the entire book. I was more surprised than the readers will be.
How did you bring factual events into the fictional story?
I started with the facts, the so-called “big story.” The characters were, in effect,
constrained by the historical facts of the Indian wars and the Civil War when the Texans arrived. In truth, we all—truthful and fictional characters alike—are living our lives constrained by the general thrust of history that we are caught up in.
ABOUT THE BOOK
In August 1863, during Kit Carson’s roundup of the Navajo, Santa Fe’s Marshal is found dead in an arroyo near what is now the Hubbel Trading Post. The murder, and the roughly million of today’s dollars in cash and belongings in his saddlebags, is historically factual. Carson’s actual explanation is implausible.
Who did kill Carson’s “brave and lamented” Major? The answer is revealed in this tale of a group of con artists operating in 1861-1863 in the New Mexico and Arizona Territories. As a matter of historical fact, millions of today’s dollars were embezzled from the Army, the Church, and the New Mexico Territory during this time. In this fictionalized version, the group includes a Santa Fe poker dealer with a checkered past claiming to fall in love with one of her coconspirators, and the historically accurate duo of the Marshal of Santa Fe and the aide de camp of the Territories’ Commanding General. It is an epic tale of murder and mystery, of staggering thefts, of love and deceit.
Both a Western and a Civil War novel, this murder mystery occurs in and among Cochise’s
Chiricahua Apache Wars, the Navajo depredations and wars, Indian Agent Kit Carson’s return from retirement, and the Civil War. The story follows the con artists, some historical, some fictional, during their poker games, scams, love affairs, and bank robberies, right into that arroyo deep in Navajo country
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published by: Sunstone Press
Publication Date: September 2, 2013
Number of pages: 344
THANKS TO SAMANTHA AT JKS COMMUNICATIONS,
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