Kate Horsley


A Killing
in New Town

A Novel

Winner of 1996 Western States Book Award for Fiction

278 pages

5.5 x 8.5 inches




With a mix of feminism, magic realism, and capitalist critique, Kate Horsley joins the growing ranks of writers who have taken historical fiction out of cliché and used it to unabashedly illuminate our past. Both a page-turning narrative and a surprising, tough-minded account of frontier relations, A Killing in New Town is a beautifully crafted, haunting and insightful revisioning of that pivotal period when the railroad comes to New Mexico. Las Vegas, New Mexico Territory: Old Town and New Town, 19th century edge of the future— fear, greed and real estate turn the windmill into a hanging tree. Boomtown—each train unloads a cargo of carpetbaggers, seekers, war veterans, exiles, and strong, lonely women like Eliza Pelham. Good mother, drunk and unfaithful wife, Eliza stands at this juncture of raw change and random justice. Caught between callousness and redemption, she simply desires a few honest truths. Unfortunately, she becomes a target for scoundrels. As Eliza searches for her stolen children, she discovers three allies: an Irish saloon girl, an Apache man who reads Melville, and La Llorona, the weeping mother, black dressed, offering her own brand of fierce wisdom.

A terrific novel—language, striking and imagistic, realistically captures the ambiguities and turbulence of the West. Great touches… so many little scenes gave me the shivers, but in the end—hope in spite of the horror.

— Maura Stanton

The landscape exists like another character. It is here that all important things happen and become sanctioned, where roots go deep and hold people, their ancestors and their children together…At the center, always, is Horsley’s organic and precise familiarity with the West, the history, and spirit of the women and men who live on the land.

—Western States Book Awards Jury

Far more than a mere history novel, this book holds up a mirror for all Americans who read it. One sees in the mirror the western landscape coming alive, a sense of adventure, and the villainy that animated westward expansion. The story of Eliza Pelham is the story of those few humans who achieve some sort of triumph over their own problems and limitations. Neither superficial, predictable, nor optimistic, instead we find a steady and sober tone of personal responsibility—the possibility of leading a life worth living under extremely adverse circumstances. Kate Horsley’s A Killing in New Town is a must read for those who enjoy history as an exploration of very particular patterns of our human condition.

—E. A. Mares

Kate Horsley was born in Richmond, Virginia and moved to New Mexico in 1977, where she obtained a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of New Mexico. Ms. Horsley has done extensive investigative journalism focusing on Native American political concerns. Currently, she teaches college English in Albuquerque.