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,

, ,

Author David Jessup Interviewed in Reporter-Herald

Just prior to the successful launch of Mariano’s Choice, my second historical novel, an interview was published in the Loveland Reporter-Herald September 25, 2016.  Excerpts below.  The original can be viewed here.

‘Mariano’s Choice’ looks at Mariano Medina’s early life

By Michelle Vendegna

Medina Mexican 84dpiDavid Jessup is following up his first novel, “Mariano’s Crossing,” with a prequel, “Mariano’s Choice.”

…”This (new book) goes back to [Mariano Medina’s] early life starting in Taos, N.M., when he was a 15-year-old boy and proceeding up to when it joins the first book in 1860,” he said of the new book. Jessup writes historical fiction.

Based on historical events, Jessup fills in the blanks with fiction. Most of the characters he features in the story were real people in the real locations.

“As with much of history, we know often what happened but we often don’t know why it happened or what the motivation and personality of the characters were,” he said, “That’s the fun of writing fiction.”

Jessup will be having a book launch at 8 a.m. Oct. 1 at Sylvan Dale Ranch, 2939 N. County Road 31D, Loveland, which he co-owns.

…”I became fascinated with this man and his family for two reasons,” he said.

The first was that Medina became quite successful in a time that many had ill feeling toward Mexicans following the Mexican-American War, Jessup said.

“I always wondered what it would have been like for him and the other European settlers in the valley to have this Mexican fellow be top dog,” he said.

The second reason …There was an oral history that following the death of Medina’s 15-year-old daughter, his wife Takansy (some historians spell her name Tacancy) took the girl’s body up the mountains for a secret burial. It intrigued Jessup that a couple that had been together for 28 years and had their own cemetery would have this conflict.

The new book focuses on how Medina became the man that he was. Jessup said in historical accounts he was described by others as a tough.

“How did he get that way? Was he born tough and resourceful or, in my imagination, I wondered, it would be interesting if he was timid as a young man and cowardly and how might he overcome that cowardice or timidness to become the man he became,” Jessup said.

He wanted to explore Medina’s relationship with Takansy as well.

“Mariano purchased her from her first husband for, what was then, a very high price and so I wondered, wow, he must have felt quite passionately about her,” he said. Medina traded six horses and six blankets in 1844 to Takansy’s husband, a French fur trapper.

“The facts of history raise questions in my mind,” he said.

As Jessup wrote the book he found a central theme emerge.

“You don’t always know the central theme of the book when you start writing it. For me, what became the theme of the book was overcoming fear and cowardice,” he said. How did a young man grow into the fierce mountain man that history knows today.

“To me, it was just a matter of: Was he going to be brave and tough from the get go? That didn’t sound very interesting,” he said.

Jessup said, as the name of the book implies, Medina will face [a] few dilemmas along the way.



Successful Book Launch for Mariano’s Choice

mt_alexander_web_1500x573October first, 2016, was one of those magically beautiful Colorado autumn days that blessed the thirty participants in our sold-out historic sites tour for the launch of my new historical novel, Mariano’s Choice.  On our first stop, we visited the ruins of the old Weldon school in Sylvan Dale Ranch’s Big Valley.  Then our vehicle caravan ascended the old quarry road on Red Ridge, the fictional site of Lena Medina’s secret grave, to peer over the edge of the towering cliff where a golden eagle soared over the valley below.  Next we drove to Namaqua Park, site of Mariano’s original trading post and stagecoach stop, then on to the restored Medina cemetery, where tour members got a chance to heft a replica of Medina’s Hawken rifle and learn more about Mariano Medina from Loveland Historical Society members Bill Meirath and Sharon Danhauer.  After returning to Sylvan Dale for Lunch, I presented my slide show introduction of Mariano’s Choice and read an excerpt from the new book.

I also described the theme of the book–overcoming cowardice–by sharing a quote from NY Times columnist David Brooks, as follows:

“The people we admire for being resilient are not hard; they are ardent. They have a fervent commitment to some cause, some ideal or some relationship. That higher yearning enables them to withstand setbacks, pain and betrayal.  …grit, resilience and toughness are not traits that people possess intrinsically. They are means inspired by an end.  …As Nietzsche put it, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”  David Brooks, NY Times, Aug. 30, 2016

For me, that quote sums up the fictional journey traveled by my main character, Mariano Medina, one of the West’s legendary mountain men.