Kneeling Nun Eruption Alters the Landscape of New Mexico’s Boot Heel Country
That could be a headline from Don Travis’s The City of Rocks
Once again, thanks to The Novel Approach for hosting a guest blog about my new book The City of Rocks. I’d also like to express my appreciation to DSP Publications for publishing my BJ Vinson Mystery Series.
The City of Rocks, the third in the series featuring gay confidential investigator BJ Vinson, his handsome partner Paul Barton, and the scenic state of New Mexico, is scheduled for publication on July 18 of this year. Novel Approach was also kind enough to guest host posts on the first two books, The Zozobra Incident and The Bisti Business. The fourth, The Lovely Pines, is now going through the publication process with DSP Publications. The next book, Abaddon’s Locusts, is now abirthing.
The City of Rocks State Park north of Deming New Mexico is a lava bed that time and wind and rain and freezing and thawing has shaped into something resembling a town or city. The bed was thrown some thirty-five million years ago, by a big volcanic eruption called the Kneeling Nun, which spewed lava and ash and pumice for 150 miles. The elements also created a famous stone pillar that appears to be a nun kneeling and praying to her God, which is the genesis of the name of the eruption. While acknowledging the existence of the actual City of Rocks, the novel takes its name from a smaller, fictitious formation occasioned by that same eruption.
The blurb for City reads as follows: Confidential investigator B. J. Vinson thinks it’s a bad joke when Del Dahlman asks him to look into the theft of a duck… a duck named Quacky Quack the Second and insured for $250,000. It ceases to be funny when the young thief dies in a suspicious truck wreck. The search leads BJ and his lover, Paul Barton, to the sprawling Lazy M Ranch in the Boot Heel country of southwestern New Mexico bordering the Mexican state of Chihuahua.
A deadly game unfolds when BJ and Paul are trapped in a weird rock formation known as the City of Rocks—an eerie array of frozen magma that is somehow at the center of the entire scheme. But does the theft of Quacky involve a quarter-million-dollar duck-racing bet between the ranch’s owner and a Miami real estate developer, or someone attempting to force the sale of the Lazy M because of its proximity to an unfenced portion of the Mexican border? BJ and Paul go from the City of Rocks to the neon lights of Miami and back again in pursuit of the answer… death and danger tracking their every step.
According to some unwritten rule, I’m supposed to put in some boring things about me. Born an Okie, educated in Texas, after a stint in Germany with the US Army (I was a clerk, what else?) I ended up—mostly by accident—in a wonderful place called New Mexico who is a featured player in all my books. (How’s that for a run-on sentence?) I took up painting to satisfy a creative urge, but always got nervous as a painting neared completion. Didn’t need that added stress, so I returned to a childhood hobby of penning short stories. After selling around sixty of them under a pseudonym, I turned to writing novels.
I do a weekly blog about my writing and recounting some of my personal peccadillos on dontravis.com. I am a member of SouthWest Writers and give back to the community by teaching a free writing class at Albuquerque’s North Domingo Baca Multigenerational Center.
For a brief peek at the book, I’ve chosen the beginning of Chapter 1 to show the casualness our hero, BJ Vinson, assigns to a new case foisted upon him.
Ten days later, Albuquerque, New Mexico
I jerked the cell phone away from my ear and looked at it as if it had lost its mind—or its chip. Del Dahlman, a local attorney, wanted me to drop everything and run down to the UNM Emergency Center to interview a man named Richard Martinson. When he told me why, I assumed he was kidding. He had to be.
“You want me to go question a ducknapper? There’s no such thing. He’s just a plain, ordinary chicken thief.”
“Whatever,” Del said. “I need you to catch him before he leaves the emergency room.”
This was simply too good to let go. “Have you called in the FBI yet?”
“Don’t be an ass,” Del snapped.
“Donkeys now? What is this, a menagerie run amok? Who did it? The pigs? Good Lord, it’s Orwell’s Animal Farm come to life.”
“Dammit, Vince, I’m serious. This is serious. I need you to get over there right away.”
I stared at the bright blue sky on this cloudless Saturday afternoon and considered hanging up on Del. I stood on the fourth tee of the golf course at the North Valley Country Club with Paul Barton. Although we lived together, it was a rare occasion when Paul and I could share the daylight hours. Between my confidential investigations business and Paul’s schedule—UNM grad school summer courses and an aquatic director’s job at the country club—we were the proverbial ships passing in the night.
I resented Del’s intrusion, but he and I went back a long way—some of it sweet, some of it bittersweet, and some downright sour.
“You need to get a move on,” he said. “You’ve got to get to him before they let him go. His name’s Richard Martinson, but… but they call him Liver Lips.” Del didn’t like playing the straight man.
“Liver Lips? Calves’ liver or…. No, don’t tell me. Let me guess. Goose liver.”
“You’re wasting my time, BJ.” He always called me Vince, a carryover from the days when we were a couple. Anytime he resorted to addressing me as BJ like the rest of the world, he was pissed.
“Hey, you called me. Right in the middle of my backswing, as a matter of fact.”
“Are you going to do it or not?”
I sighed. One of my better clients, Del commanded my attention. “Okay. Give me the details. There’s really a lawsuit on this thing?”
“No, it’s not actually a suit… yet.”
“Then why is your firm involved? More to the point, why are you involving me?”
He went defensive. “We’re New Mexico counsel for the Greater Southwest Ranchers Insurance Company or GSR, as they liked to be called, and the VP handling their problem and I are old friends. At this point I’m doing this as a favor to him. At any rate, the missing bird’s name is Quacky Quack the Second. This—”
“Shut up, Vince.”
I snickered through the rest of his briefing, hung up, and turned to my golfing companion. Paul got as good a laugh out of it as I had. In fact, we both broke up a couple of times during the retelling.
I hope that hooked you into the novel. Have as much fun reading it as I did writing it. Once again, thanks to The Novel Approach for permitting this guest post and to DSP Publications. Keep on reading, guys.
About the Book
Confidential investigator B. J. Vinson thinks it’s a bad joke when Del Dahlman asks him to look into the theft of a duck… a duck named Quacky Quack the Second and insured for $250,000. It ceases to be funny when the young thief dies in a suspicious truck wreck. The search leads BJ and his lover, Paul Barton, to the sprawling Lazy M Ranch in the Bootheel country of southwestern New Mexico bordering the Mexican state of Chihuahua.
A deadly game unfolds when BJ and Paul are trapped in a weird rock formation known as the City of Rocks, an eerie array of frozen magma that is somehow at the center of the entire scheme. But does the theft of Quacky involve a quarter-million-dollar duck-racing bet between the ranch’s owner and a Miami real estate developer, or someone attempting to force the sale of the Lazy M because of its proximity to an unfenced portion of the Mexican border? BJ and Paul go from the City of Rocks to the neon lights of Miami and back again in pursuit of the answer… death and danger tracking their every step.
About the Author
Don Travis is a man totally captivated by his adopted state of New Mexico. Each of his mystery novels features some region of the state as prominently as it does his protagonist, a gay ex-Marine, ex-cop turned confidential investigator. Don never made it to the Marines (three years in the Army was all he managed) and certainly didn’t join the Albuquerque Police Department. He thought he was a paint artist for a while, but ditched that for writing a few years back. A loner, he fulfills his social needs by attending SouthwestWriters meetings and teaching a weekly writing class at an Albuquerque community center.