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Plush with fable, then realism, then fable again, this big book begins with a literal bang: a bus, loaded with stolen dynamite and passing through a little northern New Mexico town named Chamisaville, accidentally blows up; miraculously, a Chicano blacksmith named Cipi Garcia survives on the very blast site--and the little burg suddenly owns two new hotsprings and a ""Dynamite Shrine"" to which pilgrims come a-flocking, entrepreneurs a-huckstering, lawyers a-contracting. An ""Anglo Axis"" dedicated to the ""Betterment of Chamisaville"" gets cracking, fattening their own pockets and royally screwing the Spanish and Indian natives. The thievery is so outrageous that April McQueen, the grown and bohemian daughter of one of the chief developers, comes back from her footloose and glamorous life in the East to help local heroes (like Virgil Layba, a hard-working, intrepid, under-dog lawyer) get out a dissident newspaper, El Clarin, that blows the whistle on all the big-money nefariousness. When the local Indian Pueblo is offered electricity in a Mafia-designed deal that actually will swindle the Indians of their land and give it over instead for a dogtrack complex, things start to get violent, people start getting blown away, and Nichols' own populist empathies come frothing up. But it's all handled exceptionally well; real feeling to the narrative, characters (especially April) whom you instinctively care about, with nothing fuzzed. But one wishes Nichols' gusto weren't quite so self-powering; we get the point and begin braking long before he does. What to do about this old nagging paradox--too much of a good thing?

Pub Date: April 21st, 1978
ISBN: 0805063390
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston