Based on an amalgamation of two actual bells that served the small community of New Mexicans at Agua Mansa, California, The Bad Bell of San Salvador has the factual solidarity we have come to expect from Beatty's researches into frontier history. Unfortunately, the folksy relaxed humor which is her other trademark is totally missing, and the void exposes a thin plot and even thinner characterizations. The rebel of Agua Mansa is Jacinto, who prefers to be called by his Comanche name, Spotted Wild Horse, and who stubbornly but unsuccessfully protests against his status as a Christianized and Hispanicized Indian. No doubt Jacinto's brief enthusiasm for training fighting cocks, his futile dreams of escape and his reluctant pride in his role as one of the casters of the lifesaving mission bell are plausible reconstructions. But perhaps because his eventual acceptance of the Mexicans -- an accommodation which falls just short of assimilation -- lacks conviction, Jacinto never really wins us over. There must have been thousands of Jacintos all over the Southwest, and this mild fictionalization arouses sympathy for their plight even though its tone is nearly as flat as that of the flawed bell itself.