Miriam Sagan, founder and director of the creative writing program at Santa Fe Community College, known mostly for her many books of poetry, including Rag Trade and Seven Places in America: A Poetic Sojourn, has written a literary psychedelic thriller set in the late 1960s, Black Rainbow (Sherman Asher Publishing, 2015). In the slim, 166-page volume, Sagan takes us on a journey from New Jersey to New York to New Mexico with Rania, a fifteen-year-old fledgling member of the anti-war counterculture who feels stifled by suburbia. Prodded by her rebellious new best friend, Monique, she begins to pursue her violent origins: She was born by force, cut out of her mother’s abdomen by a deranged woman named Mary Rose, whose story is told in alternating chapters with Rania’s. The friendship between Rania and Monique, as fleeting as it is, feels authentic, as the girls experiment with boys and drugs, and explore the underworld of New York City’s East Village. Mary Rose discovers her purpose — beyond that of being a mother — at a Christian monastery and eventually in a solitary life in the village of Pilar, New Mexico. Sagan reads from Black Rainbow at 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 16, at Collected Works Bookstore (202 Galisteo St., 505-988-4226).
Another new book set in New Mexico is Bread of the Dead, by Ann Myers (William Morrow/HarperCollins, 2015). It’s part of a series of Santa Fe Café mysteries, set during Day of the Dead, about a couple of bakers turned amateur sleuths. Bread of the Dead is a “cozy mystery,” a G-rated subgenre in which the sleuths, often elderly or middle-aged women who run teashops or bakeries, solve crimes in a small town. In this case, nosy older ladies, devious maids, and handsome ranchers all figure into the plot. Though Myers’ author bio claims a deep affinity for the City Different — which implies familiarity with the local cuisine — some odd decisions were made about how to deal with commonly heard Spanish food names. Sometimes “chile” appears as “chili,” and though italics were not applied to “enchilada” or “tamale,” they were applied to “Frito” in “Frito pie.” Regardless, protagonist Rita Lafitte is on the case of her recently deceased landlord, tracking clues and discovering buried secrets.