258 pages, 16 photos
$24.95 hardcover (ISBN 978-1-890689-26-1)
FINALIST, 2007 BEST BOOKS USA BOOK NEWS
FINALIST, 2007 NEW MEXICO BOOK AWARDS
SILVER MEDALIST-HISTORICAL FICTION, 2007 BOOKS OF THE YEAR, FOREWORD MAGAZINE
FINALIST, 2007 SOUTHWEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR, TUCSON-PIMA PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM
FINALIST-HISTORICAL FICTION, 2008 INDIE EXCELLENCE BOOK AWARDS
Avenging Victorio has received a rave review in the September 2007 issue of New Mexico Magazine.
“Fighting the Apaches is not like fighting the Mexicans or the Confederates, it's more like fighting ghosts,” assesses Col. Edward T. Hatch in Avenging Victorio. These comments by the wary officer reflect his frustration in the Army's inability to capture Nana, an Apache war chief who, in retaliation for the death of his fellow warrior, assailed the New Mexico territory in the late 1800s.
Author Dave DeWitt effectively fictionalizes the events following the death of Victorio, an Apache war chief who rebelled against the impoverishment and, arguably, enslavement of his people. A newcomer to the historical fiction genre, DeWitt is renowned for his knowledge of chile peppers and has published more than 30 books, most of them cookbooks. Now the "Pope of Peppers" turns his attention to the fiery conflict between the territorial Army and the Apache tribe.
DeWitt's storytelling weaves together the perspectives of the opposing sides, providing insight into the events of the period, and the personalities, motivations and cultural differences of the key players in the conflict. Thinking the Apache threat vanquished with Victorio's death, Col. Hatch (for whom the town of Hatch is named) struggles once again to appease the demands of his commanding officer and the governor, protect the citizens of the territory and assuage his wounded pride.
Although Victorio's death is the initial impetus for the quest, the mission soon expands to retaliating for other warriors' deaths-such as Mangas Coloradas, protecting Apache rights and ensuring their survival. Nana and his warriors are cunning tacticians, using guerilla warfare to raid for supplies and kill as many "Blue Coats" as possible. DeWitt describes the ceremonial scenes and the relationships between characters with a clear dedication to authentically represent the culture. The dynamic narrative format builds suspense as the reader eagerly awaits the discovery of which strategies will ultimately accomplish each side's goal—defeating the enemy.
DeWitt's characters sometimes display a prescience that can only be possible with today's knowledge, such as allusions to the town of Hatch becoming famous for chile and a young Apache's visions that his people would someday profit from gambling, These moments, however, create a kinship between a contemporary reader and the usually intangible characters of New Mexico's past.
Ashley M. Biggers, from Albuquerque, is a graduate student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. She was a summer intern at New Mexico Magazine.