Opening just before Lincoln is inaugurated, this historical novel describes the world of cowboys and Native Americans as it collides with the Civil War.
In his second novel, Kohlhagen (Tiger Found, 2008) weaves a complex tale around the real-life murder of Santa Fe’s provost marshal Maj. Joseph Cummings and the thousands of dollars stolen from the Army, the church and the New Mexico Territory during the time of the Civil War. He blends fiction with reality and uses many historical characters—Cochise, the chief of the Chiricahua Apaches; Kit Carson, one of the American frontier’s controversial legends; Augustyn “Auggy” Damours, a gambler and con artist. Kohlhagen also introduces several fictitious characters, including the sassy Lily Smoot, a Santa Fe poker dealer and occasional prostitute; U.S. Army captain John Arnold, who, over time, serves as a sort of father figure to Lily; and David Zapico, store owner and businessman. In the book, this unlikely (and untrustworthy) team of outlaws bands together to pull off one of the greatest heists in American history. Their plan, however, is not without its hiccups, close calls and, ultimately, fatalities. Greed and stupidity often get in the way. But, this is not the only plot unfolding. While the plan for embezzlement slowly takes shape, we see the effects the “White Eyes” have on Native American nations. Kohlhagen capably sketches the growing tensions between Native Americans and the U.S. soldiers and settlers; among various nations, as they unwittingly enter each other’s territories due to increasing loss of land to U.S. forces; and between the Union and Confederate soldiers as Lincoln takes office and the Civil War breaks out. Throughout the novel, it’s clear that few people trust each other, and for good reason, as everyone appears to have an agenda.
In this rough-and-tumble frontier story, endless layers of deceit up the ante and interest.