My new novel “Verdict in the Desert” will be released April 30 by Arte Público Press, the nation’s largest and most established publisher of contemporary and recovery literature by U.S. Hispanic authors.
In the summer of 1959, everyone knows his place in Arizona. Michael Shaw is an alcoholic lawyer struggling with his reputation as the son of one of Mitchell County’s wealthiest, most successful attorneys. Toni Garcia, the first in her family to obtain a college degree, has returned to Borden, Arizona, because she’s worried about her father’s health. But as a Mexican American, she can’t get a teaching job in spite of her education and intellect. Their worlds collide when Michael is assigned to represent María Sánchez Curry in the bloody murder of her husband and Toni, desperate for work, accepts a job as the defendant’s interpreter.
María and Ben Curry’s tumultuous marriage was well documented by María’s many visits to the ER. The couple was also well-known at local bars, where they often drank to excess. But the killing of a white man by a Mexican woman—even in self-defense—is not permissible in a time when justice is determined by the good-old-boys’ club. Also unacceptable is the growing relationship between Michael and Toni, who fight to save María against all odds.
In this evocative exploration of class and race in 1950s America, Bobby Darin is on the juke box, Doris Day is on the silver screen and pink flamingos grace front yards. Former crime reporter Patricia Santos Marcantonio crafts a stirring tale of forbidden love in a world where democracy rules but due process and fair treatment aren’t as readily available on the wrong side of the tracks.
The novel was partly inspired by my days as a court reporter for a newspaper.