I’m excited to share a big announcement with you. My next book, Chokecherry Canyon, will be released in paperback and ebook on July 18th.
I’d like to tell you about the book’s title and origins.
I grew up in the Four Corners region of New Mexico, where the corners of Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico meet on the map. Farmington has always been an oil and gas town, one whose fortunes rise and fall with those of the energy industries. My father was a petroleum geologist, who made his living “mudlogging” at active drilling sites. Owing to the boom or bust nature of the business, when the oil and gas industry imploded in the 1980s, I had a firsthand seat to the financial carnage.
Our house sat on a quiet street on the edge of town. We never had many visitors on Halloween. Kids were out in force, but because of the way our street was designed, you had to take a sharp right at a bend in the road in order to find any houses. If you were unfamiliar with the street and turned onto it at night, it looked as though you were headed straight into the pitch-black emptiness of Chokecherry Canyon. In the daylight, you could stand at that bend in the road and see where a dirt road branched off from the blacktop and descended into the canyon below. At sunset, you would be treated to a gorgeous view of Shiprock in the distance. But at night, all you could see was darkness. Not so inviting to young trick or treaters.
As a kid, I used to hike around that canyon all the time (in daylight of course). I would explore caves and channels worn into the sandstone bluffs. I’d scavenge for scrap wood and metal to use in the construction of clubhouses. Now and then, I’d stumble across some truly bizarre finds, like the discovery of an underground bunker someone had dug amidst a thicket of trees. Under a plywood hatch, concealed beneath a layer of clay and sand, I found a large room outfitted with pillows, blankets, a camp stove, and a grandfather clock. I don’t know who built it, but thinking about it today, I’m amazed I stuck around to explore it as long as I did! To make a long story short, Chokecherry Canyon was a desolate, fascinating, and occasionally frightening place.
When I started cooking up an idea for a Chinatown-style mystery set in the Southwest, Farmington seemed like the natural backdrop for a tale of unscrupulous politicians and businessmen exploiting the hopes and dreams of a struggling city. I was aiming to write a fast, fun, atmospheric little mystery. After years of work, Chokecherry Canyon is the result. I hope you enjoy it! Here’s the description from the back of the book:
When a disgraced businessman is nearly decapitated in a seedy restaurant, the blood trail leads reporter Luke Murphy to a series of dark secrets, concealed for decades in the New Mexico desert.
Luke Murphy returned to Farmington, New Mexico to care for his ailing father, but a year later, his old man is dead, and Luke has stuck around. Working for the local newspaper, he’s quickly learning that reporting the news in his old hometown often means reading between the lines of what people are willing to share with him on the record and off. But there’s nothing like a murder to get people talking…
While covering a crime scene on the outskirts of town, Luke unwittingly stumbles onto a story forty years in the making. Whispered secrets suggest a cover-up spearheaded by the town’s former mayor, a conspiracy involving a hometown hero, and a growing scandal known to just a handful of people – including Luke’s late father. The farther Luke drills down, the harder the town’s power-players fight to conceal the truth. It’s a story as old as print, a tale of politics, greed, and murder, simmering under the hot sun in the American Southwest.
Thank you again for your support. I’ll be in touch next month to let you know when the book hits shelves!