Taos News Reviews Mariano’s Choice

My new historical novel, Mariano’s Choice, got a nice write up in the Oct. 7 Taos News, reviewed by Joan Livingston.  I quote from it below, and the original can be found here:

Mariano’s Choice, by Joan Livingston

Ah, the choices we make. In Mariano Medina’s case, his was to “Run! Get away!” when he witnesses an attack on a girl, the daughter of his patrón. But then he was only 15 and outnumbered by the ruthless men who hunt him down.

Still his inability to stop the attack haunts Mariano into his adulthood.

Author David M. Jessup sets his novel in the first half of the 1800s in the very Wild West. He uses real people for a few of his characters — such as Mariano, who rescued an Army brigade trying to cross Colorado during the winter of 1857 — and then has his way with them.

The novel begins in Taos, where Mariano is a stable boy for a wealthy patrón. During the 15 years following the aforementioned attack, Mariano wanders the frontier, working with trappers and traders. He is skilled at training horses and mules although not as natural as Takánsy, the Indian woman he hires to help him ready a herd for a group of Oregon travelers.

“Charlie Autobees had taught him well during the ten years he hauled whiskey for the man. Had taught him English, too. Given him a tent and blanket. Made him feel part of El Pueblo, that rough little settlement of Americano traders and their Mexican women hunkered on the north bank of the Arkansas, out of reach of Mexican hacienda owners and their sons.”

Mariano encounters good guys, like his buddy, Tim Goodale, and the savvy French trader, Papín, and bad guys, such as the son of his former patrón.

His courage is tested when he risks his life to save Takánsy from a band of Utes. Then there is his return to the Taos area, where he must finally face his past.

It’s been a while since I picked up historical fiction by choice. But Jessup makes his novel work handsomely with a good tempo and an authority that is convincing. He takes readers on a very satisfying ride into the past.

Jessup, a rancher in Colorado, also wrote Mariano’s Crossing. This novel is its prequel.

“Mariano’s Choice,” at 249 pages, is available from Pronghorn Press ( for $19.95 in paperback.

Note:  Mariano’s Choice may also be ordered from regular and online bookstores, and from my website,


Book Review: Epitaph, by Mary Doria Russell


So much has been written about the OK Corral I almost passed this book up. Now I consider Epitaph one of the best historical novels on the American West I’ve ever read.

EpitaphHistorical fiction often suffers when authors dwell too much on historical fact at the expense of a good story, or as in the case of most accounts of the OK Corral, allow the fiction to run away from the facts.   Mary Doria Russel achieves a perfect balance.  Learn and be entertained at the same time.  It’s “edutainment” at its best.

Ever wonder what these famous characters were really like?  How they were raised, what drove them, Read more