Sunday, September 1, 2013

@JKSLitPublicity Presents: Book Feature "Where They Bury You" and Guest Post by Steve W. Kohlhagen

ISBN: 978-0-86534-936-0
Hardcover, $32.95
Paperback, $24.95
eBook, $9.99
344 pages
September 2, 2013
Sunstone Press

In August 1863, during Kit Carson’s roundup of the Navajo, Santa Fe’s Marshal is found dead in an arroyo near what is now the Hubbel Trading Post. The murder, and the roughly million of today’s dollars in cash and belongings in his saddlebags, is historically factual. Carson’s actual explanation is implausible.

Who did kill Carson’s “brave and lamented” Major? The answer is revealed in this tale of a group of con artists operating in 1861-1863 in the New Mexico and Arizona Territories. As a matter of historical fact, millions of today’s dollars were embezzled from the Army, the Church, and the New Mexico Territory during this time. In this fictionalized version, the group includes a Santa Fe poker dealer with a checkered past claiming to fall in love with one of her co-conspirators, and the historically accurate duo of the Marshal of Santa Fe and the aide de camp of the Territories’ Commanding General. It is an epic tale of murder and mystery, of staggering thefts, of love and deceit.

Both a Western and a Civil War novel, this murder mystery occurs in and among Cochise’s Chiricahua Apache Wars, the Navajo depredations and wars, Indian Agent Kit Carson’s return from retirement, and the Civil War. The story follows the con artists, some historical, some fictional, during their poker games, scams, love affairs, and bank robberies, right into that arroyo deep in Navajo country.


Steve Kohlhagen is a former, now retired, Economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, a retired Wall Street investment banker, and is on several corporate boards, most recently elected to the board of Freddie Mac. While at Berkeley he authored many economics publications, and he and his wife Gale jointly published the murder mystery “Tiger Found” under their pen name Steven Gale in 2008.

Kohlhagen was inspired to write his latest book “Where They Bury You” after reading Hampton Sides’ “Blood and Thunder,” a non-fiction history of Kit Carson and the West. Sides’ reporting of the factual murder of Marshal Joseph Cummings on August 18, 1863 led Kohlhagen to conduct further research on Carson and Cummings, including at the National Archives. He also pulled from his own knowledge of the West, as the writer divides his time between the New Mexico-Colorado border high in the San Juan Mountains and Charleston, South Carolina.
I have a guest post by Mr. Kohlhagen, so let me just put that right here.  He's going to talk to us a bit about how his careers at Wall Street and in academia worked out to put him onto a writing path.  So, here we go!

There is actually a common thread in my careers that most everybody misses.

When I was on Wall Street, people would I ask if I missed teaching and research at Berkeley. And I pointed out that creating and selling complex financial instruments involved a great deal of thoughtful research and successful teaching. Investment banking and derivatives is a constant swirl of researching, learning, and then developing new products. And then the process of training colleagues and then selling to both bosses and customers/clients is nothing more than teaching. And teaching at a very exciting level. None of the Wall Street “students” and clients are there because they are required to be there. All the “students” are interested and engaged. It’s teaching at an exhilarating level.

Then when I announced I was off to write murder mysteries, everybody said, “Huh?” Or words to that effect. “How does that follow writing academic papers and running a trading room floor?” And I responded that I’d always been writing. And that many had always viewed it as fiction. Go back and ask my students and they’ll tell you that my academic papers seemed like fiction to them. And my former Wall Street bosses and clients? What are sales documents but a story that pulls in the audience and convinces them of the reality of the underlying premise.

In short, all are always about communication. Writing academic papers, writing memos to sell a concept or a product, producing sales documents, giving oral or written sales pitches, discovering new theories or new empirical relationships, and then communicating each of these to an audience that needs to be convinced, are all about writing a good story. The major difference is that all of those activities have to create a convincing story in the real world, while writing effective fiction needs to create characters and stories at least as compelling, but that carry the audience into past, present, and future worlds that they care about hopefully, more than they do about memos and sales documents.

  How I got into writing murder mysteries specifically, also relates directly to my academic career. About 35 years ago, I told my wife and two mutual friends that I thought mysteries were a “waste of time.” My exact words. The guy, a colleague of mine at Berkeley, amusingly asked me what I did like in fiction. I told him “characterizations.” He smiled and returned with five books. Said, “read these and then see if you change your mind.” I did, and, well, I did. After that I became a voracious reader of Elmore Leonard, Ross Thomas, Robert Parker, et. al. Then decided when I retired from investment banking, I wanted to make the “natural transition”---for me, at least---into writing murder mysteries.

Interesting stuff, eh? I'm also a huge fan of the late Elmore Leonard and like the earlier Robert Parker books; those are good choices for starting on mysteries!  Finally, here's a press release to just tell you a bit more about this book. Enjoy!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                 CONTACT: Marissa Curnutte

Financial guru Steven W. Kohlhagen turns to his roots in the American West high desert for his first historical fiction novel ‘Where They Bury You’

SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO – Steve Kohlhagen wasn’t convinced after reading Hampton Sides’ nonfiction account, “Blood and Thunder,” that American frontiersman and Indian fighter Kit Carson’s official report of the events in August 1863 was entirely true. And in the 150th anniversary year, Kohlhagen begs the question, “Did the Navajos really shoot Carson’s Marshal?”

His new book “Where They Bury You” puts a different spin on what’s found in the history books. Based on actual facts and a very real murder, this Western murder mystery takes place during the Civil War battles in the New Mexico and Arizona Territories. A former Wall Street investment banker who currently sits on several Board of Directors, most recently joining Freddie Mac’s, Kohlhagen’s retired life in the San Juan Mountains gives him a unique perspective on the region about which he writes.

After researching a group of con artists who did, indeed, embezzle millions of today’s dollars, Kohlhagen sheds fictional light on who committed the actual August 18, 1863 murder of Santa Fe’s Provost Marshal deep in Navajo Territory. The novel vividly depicts battles among Cochise’s Chiricahua Apaches, the Navajo and other Southwestern Indian tribes, Kit Carson, the Union Army, volunteers from the western Territories, and the attacking Confederate Rebels from Texas.

“Steve Kohlhagen knows the West, knows his history, and combines them here into a fast-paced, irresistible story!” raves Bernard Cornwell, award-winning author of over 50 historical fiction novels who USA Today calls “the reigning king of historical fiction.”

“Where They Bury You” is a thrill ride into the old and mysterious ways of the West, to a place and time in history that provides surprises along the way.



  1. Excellent interview! Thank you for giving us a glimpse into such a brilliant mind.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


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