(part II in our literary exploration of the Southwest. You can find Part I here)
After Chaco we headed off to Santa Fe. We had a great time at the Palace of the Governors, one of the main tourist attractions. (By the way it has a great bookstore!). There I was surprised to learn that one of the early governors of New Mexico was Lew Wallace, a fairly interesting chap.
Wallace was a Union general in the Civil War — he was controversially and quite possibly unfairly blamed for the debacle that was the battle of Shiloh. He was on the military commission that tried both the Lincoln assassination conspirators, and the trial of Henry Wirz, the commander of the Andersonville prison camp, where nearly a quarter of the prisoners of war died from inadequate care and mistreatment. Lastly, and surprisingly, Wallace was the author of Ben-Hur: A Novel of the Christ, the book behind the famous movie starring Charlton Heston. During it’s day, Ben-Hur was perhaps read by more Americans than any other book except the Bible.
If you are intrigued by Ben-Hur and Wallace, you can read more about the history here.
Santa Fe is also home to a fun little bookstore, Collected Works. I picked up a copy of Denis Johnson’s The Laughing Monsters there.
Finally, in case you’ve been hiding under a rock, we’ll let you know that George R.R. Martin lives in Santa Fe. Sadly we were unable to find him or his house.
After a few great days in Santa Fe, we trundled off to a last day in Durango before flying home. We stayed at the wonderful, historic Strater Hotel. It’s right out of a movie set, for an old west hotel. Many of the rooms are named after famous occupants.
Miraculously, we were given the Louis L’Amour room. He wrote many of his famous westerns in our room sitting at precisely the same table — magic! We stumbled down the street to another fun little used bookstore, I think it was The Book Hutch. The owner actually knew the L’Amours and spoke very highly of them. While I’m not generally a westerns fan, I had to take a book home as a memento!