A ""man of many lives"" Leon Mendes, a Jew from Manhattan's lower East Side, came to be a significant figure in the bridging of the frontier after the Americans took over the region around Santa Fe. For Leo had come West to find health and rebirth; he found his livelihood as a peddler with his burro, who brought goods and took pay in exchange, and linked the simple people together with his friendship. When time came to settle down, the drifting and the interludes in Santa Fe behind him, he chose Don Pedro and there established his store, despite the threat and warning from the Spanish alcalde, Don Vierra. He made warm friends; he built success through trust; he became a power as great as the Vierras --and almost as great as Padre Orlando; and he won the passion of Vierra's wife, and the love of her niece. Here is a segment out of the opening west, faithful to the mood, the tempo, the conflict of mixed bloods. As a novel it is better knit, perhaps, than Grant of Kingdom (1950), but it remains a novel of regional and period flavor rather than a novel of character and incident. Beautifully written, vividly pictorial, its choice as July Literary Guild may well best sell.