Reading the West 2015 - Winning Titles - Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association
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Reading the West 2015 – Winning Titles

For books published in calendar year 2015.

Posted May 31, 2016



Adult Fiction


by S.M. Hulse

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: January 20, 2015
Hardcover $24.00

A former prison guard and talented fiddler returns to his Montana hometown to bury his wife and confront the inmate who, twenty years ago, held him hostage during a prison riot.

A tense Western and an assured debut, Black River tells the story of a man marked by a prison riot as he returns to the town, and the convict, who shaped him.

When Wes Carver returns to Black River, he carries two things in the cab of his truck: his wife’s ashes and a letter from the prison parole board. The convict who held him hostage during a riot, twenty years ago, is being considered for release.

Wes has been away from Black River ever since the riot. He grew up in this small Montana town, encircled by mountains, and, like his father before him and most of the men there, he made his living as a Corrections Officer. A talented, natural fiddler, he found solace and joy in his music. But during that riot Bobby Williams changed everything for Wes — undermining his faith and taking away his ability to play.

How can a man who once embodied evil ever come to good? How can he pay for such crimes with anything but his life? As Wes considers his own choices and grieves for all he’s lost, he must decide what he believes and whether he can let Williams walk away.

With spare prose and stunning detail, S. M. Hulse drops us deep into the heart and darkness of an American town.



Sarah M. Hulse received her MFA from the University of Oregon and was a fiction fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her stories have appeared in Willow Springs, Witness, and Salamander. A horsewoman and fiddler, she has spent time in Washington, Montana, Idaho, and Oregon.


Adult Nonfiction


LADIES OF THE CANYONS: A League of Extraordinary
Women and Their Adventures in the American Southwest

by Lesley Poling-Kempes

The University of Arizona Press
Publication date: September 17, 2015
Paperback $24.95

This is the true story of remarkable women who left the security and comforts of genteel Victorian society and journeyed to the American Southwest in search of a wider view of themselves and their world.

Educated, restless, and inquisitive, Natalie Curtis, Carol Stanley, Alice Klauber, and Mary Cabot Wheelwright were plucky, intrepid women whose lives were transformed in the first decades of the twentieth century by the people and the landscape of the American Southwest. Part of an influential circle of women that included Louisa Wade Wetherill, Alice Corbin Henderson, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Mary Austin, and Willa Cather, these ladies imagined and created a new home territory, a new society, and a new identity for themselves and for the women who would follow them.

Their adventures were shared with the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and Robert Henri, Edgar Hewett and Charles Lummis, Chief Tawakwaptiwa of the Hopi, and Hostiin Klah of the Navajo. Their journeys took them to Monument Valley and Rainbow Bridge, into Canyon de Chelly, and across the high mesas of the Hopi, down through the Grand Canyon, and over the red desert of the Four Corners, to the pueblos along the Rio Grande and the villages in the mountains between Santa Fe and Taos.

Although their stories converge in the outback of the American Southwest, the saga of Ladies of the Canyons is also the tale of Boston’s Brahmins, the Greenwich Village avant-garde, the birth of American modern art, and Santa Fe’s art and literary colony.

LADIES OF THE CANYONS is the story of New Women stepping boldly into the New World of inconspicuous success, ambitious failure, and the personal challenges experienced by women and men during the emergence of the Modern Age.



[LADIES OF THE CANYONS] was an adventure to research and write, and it is a privilege to bring to light the remarkable stories of women who a century ago loved and lived upon the same landscape I call home.

My love affair with the high desert of Abiquiu and northern New Mexico began when I first came to Ghost Ranch on a family vacation as a child in the 1960s. Like my BONE HORSES protagonist, Charlotte, I was born and raised in New York, specifically in Westchester County. Unlike Charlotte, I loved the wild vast empty desert and wide blue sky of the Southwest on sight. I was always working my way back home to this exotic, magnificent place. After college I moved full time into the Indio-Hispanic world of Abiquiu. I began to write the real and imagined stories of my adopted community.

For several decades my primary work was as a writer/​historian. For my first three books (THE HARVEY GIRLS, VALLEY OF SHINING STONE, and GHOST RANCH), I interviewed and talked with literally hundreds of old-timers all over the Southwest. I heard remarkable tales of the early days in New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona.

Lesley’s work has received the WILLA Award for Contemporary Fiction, the Tony Hillerman Award, and the Zia Award for Excellence. Her books have been finalists for the Western Writers of America Spur Award for Best First Novel (CANYON OF REMEMBERING), for the Independent Publisher Book Award for Best Western Non-Fiction (GHOST RANCH), and won the IPPY Award for Best Fine Art Book (GEORGIA O’KEEFFE AND NEW MEXICO). Her book about the Harvey Girls and the Santa Fe Railway, based on seventy-six interviews Lesley conducted in the early 1980s, is considered the definitive work on the subject and era in women’s history.




by Eliot Treichel

Ooligan Press at Portland State University
Publication date: November 1, 2015
Paperback $14.95

After the devastating loss of her father on a canoe trip meant to bring them closer together, fifteen-year-old Emma Wilson finds herself alone on the river.

As she treks out from their remote campsite in New Mexico, she faces wild rapids and a numbing sense of guilt. Back home, Emma confronts the complexity of grief and realizes that leaving the river behind was only the first step forward.

“I’d go so far as to say it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year, in any genre.”
— Melanie Bishop, Huffington Post

“Treichel’s realistic and compelling characterization of Emma highlights a maturity into adulthood that offers no easy solutions to the difficulties of grief, but celebrates the best of her family.”
Publisher’s Weekly



Eliot Treichel is a native of Wisconsin who now lives in Eugene, Oregon. His first book, CLOSE IS FINE, is the winner of the Wisconsin Library Association Literary Award. His fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in Beloit Fiction Journal, CutBank, Passages North, Southern Indiana Review, and Hawai’i Pacific Review. He’s also written for Canoe & Kayak, Paddler, and Eugene Magazine.


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