Monday, 2 September 2013

Where They Bury You Virtual Tour: Guest Post with Steve Kohlhagen

ISBN: 978-0-86534-936-0
Hardcover, $32.95
Paperback, $24.95
eBook, $9.99
344 pages
September 2, 2013
Sunstone Press

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 millions 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.
 Grab a copy

Marissa Curnutte


Financial guru Steven W. Kohlhagen turns to his roots in the American West high desert for his first historical fiction novel
‘Where They Bury You’

SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO – Steve Kohlhagen wasn’t convinced after reading Hampton Sides’ nonfiction account, “Blood and Thunder,” that American frontiersman and Indian fighter Kit Carson’s official report of the events in August 1863 was entirely true. And in the 150th anniversary year, Kohlhagen begs the question, “Did the Navajos really shoot Carson’s Marshal?”

His new book “Where They Bury You” puts a different spin on what’s found in the history books. Based on actual facts and a very real murder, this Western murder mystery takes place during the Civil War battles in the New Mexico and Arizona Territories. A former Wall Street investment banker who currently sits on several Board of Directors, most recently joining Freddie Mac’s, Kohlhagen’s retired life in the San Juan Mountains gives him a unique perspective on the region about which he writes.

After researching a group of con artists who did, indeed, embezzle millions of today’s dollars, Kohlhagen sheds fictional light on who committed the actual August 18, 1863 murder of Santa Fe’s Provost Marshal deep in Navajo Territory. The novel vividly depicts battles among Cochise’s Chiricahua Apaches, the Navajo and other Southwestern Indian tribes, Kit Carson, the Union Army, volunteers from the western Territories, and the attacking Confederate Rebels from Texas.

“Steve Kohlhagen knows the West, knows his history, and combines them here into a fastpaced,
irresistible story!” raves Bernard Cornwell, award-winning author of over 50 historical fiction novels who USA Today calls “the reigning king of historical fiction.”

“Where They Bury You” is a thrill ride into the old and mysterious ways of the West, to a place and time in history that provides surprises along the way.
 with Steve Kohlhagen
Why I chose this particular story, and why it compelled me to write a novel

I was innocently reading Hampton Sides’ wonderful history of the West, Blood and Thunder, when I came across Kit Carson’s implausible explanation for the 1863 murder of a U.S. Marshal under his command during his war against the Navajo (August 18, 1863---150 years ago, practically to the day). Intrigued, I started researching Army Archives and biographies of the people who were there, and discovered there had been a massive embezzlement of the Territorial government, the Church, and the Army by a group of con artists that, interestingly, actually happened in the months just previous to the murder. And the murdered Marshal had $750,000 of today’s dollars in his saddlebags. All this took place against the backdrop of the Texans and the Civil War inserting themselves into the Territories’ Apache and Navajo wars.

Interesting times. Interesting unsolved murder. The more I read and the more I thought about it, the more I realized there was a potentially fascinating story during a complex and fascinating period of history. I was compelled to write a novel that included a more plausible (fictional) explanation for the murder. Once I placed the fictional characters onto the historically accurate canvas, the story took off.

And the Marshall was killed again. This time more interestingly, and, more to the point, more plausibly.
What my favorite part of putting the book together was, and what it was like changing history for a book based on real events, but retold in the way I think it really happened.

My favorite part of putting the book together was watching the characters carry the book on their shoulders. When I created Lily Smoot, she was supposed to be a minor character, a former prostitute headed off to deal poker in Santa Fe. When she was finished with me (and all the real and fictional characters in the book) she was the heroine. Out of nothing, something fun.

I also very much enjoyed writing the battle scenes in a fictionalized way, with the characters controlled by historical accuracy and at the same time driving the flow of the fight.

To answer your question, I chose NOT to change history. All the characters are controlled by the actual events of history (with a debt to Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead). The only liberties I took with historical accuracy were to: a) compress certain events (especially lengthy battles); and b) increase the role of some characters to reduce the number of characters to keep track of, both so as to not bore or burden the reader.

Since no witness to the Marshal’s murder ever came forth in historical records, even the ending of Where They Bury You cannot be proven to NOT be historically accurate. Just different from Kit Carson’s convenient and implausible explanation.

Steve Kohlhagen is a former, now retired, Economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, are tired 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.
Connect with Steve

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