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Back to Santa Fe

back2santafefrontcover2rgb96-smW.T. Durand’s new release,  brings a new voice and a spicy, Western flavor to Saille Tales. It’s a novel about a relatively clueless cabinet maker, Sullivan Ortega, with a terrible temper and few prospects. After he hears of his sister’s death, he returns home to fix what he can and find out the rest. A lot more than he expected.

Sullivan’s story takes a world of trouble and settles it right down in good, old Santa Fe, New Mexico; where all the scenic enchantment isn’t really helping Sullivan much even if it keeps the parking lots, shops and restaurants filled with happy tourists. This book touches on how people’s differences can affect them and change their lives in unexpected ways. It also deals with what can happen when things aren’t buried deep enough.

Watch this page for more information. Durand’s voice will keep lots of Saille readers entertained and wondering what’s next…

11/30/2015: New Review by Richard Abbott on Review:

“Secrets are, indeed, at the core of the book, and almost nobody is quite who or what they seem at first sight. The occasional person who is, in fact, entirely straightforward, therefore strikes the reader with a sense of confidence and relief amongst all of the pretence and deceit. The suspicion felt by Sullivan, heading towards paranoia, begins to affect you as reader, and you start to doubt the good intentions of perfectly honest people wanting to help.

Unfortunately for Sullivan, the layers of pretense obscure even his own family members. As this becomes clear to him, so also does the fact of his own lack of understanding and empathy. For a man to whom family loyalty is a major driving force, the revelation of his own insensitivity is a terrible blow, which threatens to crush him completely. He survives by rebuilding relationships on foundations of honesty, and the acceptance of difference.”

Read the full review here:

7/8/2014: Five Stars for B2SF on B&N!

5star-shiny-hrReviewed by Karen Pirnot for Readers’ Favorite

W.T. Durand’s latest mystery novel Back to Santa Fe may yet be his best. Sullivan Ortega has moved from San Diego back to Santa Fe following the untimely death of his sister, who was killed in a car accident. "Sully" has only suspicions surrounding his sister’s death, but his hunches are strong enough that he begins to act upon them. Sully is filled with rage over the loss of both of his parents and now his sister Maggie. Thus far, his rage has been directed in non-productive ways. Now, Sully is ready to solicit the help of his adopted “cousin” Ben, a police officer with more investment in Sully than might be thought healthy. Both men begin to take risks and, when pieces of the puzzle begin to unfold, the pursuit of the truth is relentless, taking Sully to places in his mind that were meant to remain dormant.

Durand’s characters are memorable and the reader will want to choose sides and get into the fray. Sully is a warm and yet impulsive guy who only wants a piece of the life he sees others getting. Ben is a well settled man who is comfortable with his life, yet he faces being sanctioned for the risks he is willing to take. Back to Santa Fe has family life, love life, sexual history and a wealth of mystery to keep anyone going from one chapter to the next. Durand appears to be growing in talent as a mystery writer and it’s well worth taking a chance on the book. Second chances do not always present in life and, when they do, the reader will need to decide whether to dig down and do the work or whether to take the safe fork in the road. Sully took the chance and you’ll love his choices!

4/16/2014: Back To Santa Fe is now available in the Amazon Kindle Store, and soon will be announced in a print version, too.

4/25/2014: Back To Santa Fe is now in print as well available from Amazon and other online booksellers.

5/9/2014: Back to Santa Fe is now at Barnes & Noble in print and for the Nook!

2/25 Press Release:

  • Media/Review Advance Copies: Email request to wtdurandatsailletalesdotcom

Excerpt from Back to Santa Fe:


Chapter Three

Morning found him up early, shaved and dressed in a white shirt and sport jacket. Pretty slick for a weekday, but as his mother always told him, it didn’t hurt to look good. He knew that his reputation wasn’t that of a man of stature in the community, so he figured if he didn’t look like a wild man, it might help at the cop shop. He fed McAllister, then headed out towards breakfast at the Big Owl. He’d hoped that the traffic would be light, but it wasn’t and by the time he got there and found the one remaining parking space in the back, his stomach was growling out loud. Fortunately, there was no waiting line for tables, so he slid right in.

The hostess took him to the small table near the cash register, barely large enough for one let alone the two it was set for. She gave him a brilliant smile and said, “your menu will be right here!”

He thanked her and sure enough, a big booming voice came out of the back.

“Hey! There’s that blue-eyed, Irish Mezzz-can!”

Sullivan looked up to see his drinking buddy, Pat bringing him his menu in one hand and a pot of coffee in the other.

“Tough night? You look like you needed a strong cup.”

Sullivan nodded and replied, “Too much fun catches up with you, buddy.”

Pat smiled and began to pour. “You headin’ down to ‘Burque?”

Sullivan nodded, then nodded again when Pat asked, “Huevos? Basket or Gorditas?”

Sullivan replied,” basket today.”

“Good! A real meal coming right up!” said Pat as he took the order towards the kitchen. He muttered something to the hostess as he passed her in the dining room and Sullivan noticed that she glanced at him before she replied.

The place was busy. Packed with early morning banter and the rustle of newspapers. Sullivan recognized a few regulars and nodded to them. Most were concentrating on their food. In the side dining room, a business meeting, or church group, or something was taking up three long tables. A single voice was speaking softly about some planning issues and Sullivan decided it must be a community group when they began to applaud something the speaker said.

Pat was back with breakfast before he caught the full gist of the discussion. “Anything else, Buddy?”

Sullivan looked up and replied, “You know, Pat, I do have a question for you. How is it your parents named you Patrick, instead of Pablo, or Jose, or Javier?”

Pat stood, put his finger to his eyebrow and thought about the answer while rubbing off the top of one shoe that had caught a dollop of salsa, on his pant leg.

“Oh, you know, it must have been because of my grandfather. He lived all the way down there, South of Capitan in a village named for the saint: San Patricio!”

Sullivan smiled and said conspiratorially, “So, there might just be a bit of Irish in you, too!”

Patricio beamed and replied good-naturedly, “Who knows? But I’m sure there’s no Chihuahua in there!” and headed back towards the kitchen.

Sullivan sipped his coffee and listened to the sounds of the meeting. The words were muffled by the wall in between the rooms, so he could only catch a few. It was a civic group made up, from what he could hear, of people from East of Santa Fe, out near Pecos as well as a few from up North, from Trampas and Santa Cruz, near Chimayo. The image of his sister’s burning, crumpled car at the bottom of the arroyo pushed in and he tried to crowd it from his mind. It was a regional water issues meeting. No doubt the result of the recent decision by the State Engineer, that all communities in the State had to have “community” water systems, not individual wells.

The decision that had swept even the most traditional, quiet families up in its controversy and rancor. While Sullivan figured it made sense in the long run, often the poorest communities — and there were a lot of them — couldn’t bear the cost of installing a new system. No provision existed to assist these communities and Sullivan figured that the people in the next room were trying to put together some kind of proposal to put before the legislators. Their timing was good, at least the Legislature was still in session. No parking space for anyone, he thought to himself.

He finished his eggs and beans then swabbed the remnants off the plate with a piece of biscuit. He thought of Pat and his grandfather and the little village down on the Rio Hondo in Lincoln County. He thought of those other immigrants. So far from home.

He remembered the old, sad story. During the first Irish Famine, in the early 1840’s, many sons of Ireland came to America to find the only work to be had was carrying a gun for the government. They found themselves soon engaged in the misguided war against Mexico. There was one part of it he’d learned first from his mother; that the US Army mistreated the Irishman badly and one of the reasons was that they were Catholics. His mother had embellished the story with lots of color and excitement, but he only remembered the basics.

After one long, protracted engagement, with severe casualties, an Irish captain had asked permission to take his company into the nearby village to attend mass to pray for their lost comrades, but was refused. This was the last straw and the entire company, refusing to kill another fellow Catholic, deserted the US Army and immediately joined up with the Mexican Army, switching sides. They fought bravely in scores of battles until they were mostly all captured. They became known as the San Patricios in Mexico, because the image of the Saint or a harp was proudly displayed upon their banners. There were songs and stories that told of their courage and their loyalty, one of which Sullivan’s father knew and sang to his children. It made their mother smile.

She’d contributed her Irish bloodlines to the family gene pool. Her own family had come from Pennsylvania in the 1930s and had found an unlikely home in Ruidoso, New Mexico. Her father, Sullivan Derrick was a legendary horseman and had a gentle way of breaking saddle horses that brought him work and reputation.

Pat’s family’s little village of San Patricio was a sleepy farming and orchard community and if there was an Irishman there, you’d never know from the families in the valley, but maybe, Sullivan thought, it had been settled by those who escaped the US Army and returned after the Treaty in 1848. At least he liked to think so.

Sullivan drained the last of his coffee and laid a few bills on the table with the check and left, catching the eye of the hostess on his way out. That smile could get her into all kinds of trouble, he thought to himself as the screen door closed behind him. But not with me, I’ve got no time for that now.



An Interview with author W.T. Durand…

What is the most surprising thing about Santa Fe and New Mexico, for someone who’s never visited?

When we first set foot in the State, back in 1984, we were on a business trip and besides the sheer, breath-taking beauty of the place; the interaction and separation of the various cultures there was remarkable.

How do you mean?

Well, take New York. There I learned about both neighborhoods and the melting-pot concept. In order for a city as diverse and huge as NYC to work, everyone has to cut each other a lot of slack. There, differences are mostly downplayed as only a side-issue. People might not get along, but it’s personal, not cultural for the most part.

New Mexico is very different. There, it struck me right away, all the diverse cultures remain isolated. They interact as necessary, but they prefer to keep to themselves. Part of that is the deep sense of history that pervades the State, and all the different languages. Besides the various Puebloan linguistic groups, there are also Zuni people who’ve all been there, trying to find the right balance for thousands of years. Easily as diverse as Europe, probably more so. Then you’ve got the Navajo and Apache people who stopped their wandering there around seven or eight hundred years ago. Add to that the colonial Spanish, from around 1540 and you get an idea of a very diverse population before “Anglos” ever set foot there. There has been an uneasy peace for a long, long time, but it isn’t as much about everyone getting along just fine as it is everyone tolerating everyone else as much as needed to get by. Interdependence is the fact on the ground, but when you gather together, it’s with your kind of people. That kind of insular lifestyle keeps tradition alive and respected, and is the foundation for all the incredible examples of traditional arts that have flourished in New Mexico for so long. One side-effect is it also brings in tourists.

Author's photo of a cottonwood tree in Chimayo, NM, near where some scenes are set in his upcoming novel.

Author’s photo of a cottonwood tree in Chimayo, NM, near where some scenes are set in his upcoming novel.

Seems to have been a Mecca for retirees as well, back in the 1990s.

The last-comers, especially seem to bring in the culture of where they left, and try to re-create it in New Mexico. It seemed really odd to me, right away, to see the ultra-casual, off the shoulder, oversized sweatshirt over leggings style of dress I’d mostly associated with the San Fernando Valley in California, pushing up against a widowed Pueblo or Spanish grandmother in a floor length dress in a Costco checkout line. I was also struck, early on in our more than twenty year tenure there, often when Anglo newcomers get together to talk politics, one of the first things they complain about is the ancient, “Padrone” system of government. The nepotism, especially. They bitch and moan about a way of life that has effectively worked for more than 500 years now as if it’s some kind of relic to be tossed out.  Santa Fe became part of America in 1849. In the overall scheme of things, that was just last week; and the proven ways that kept families able to find a rewarding life in a harsh landscape, still endure, for good reason. They still work. They still have to work.

Tourism is a very important part of the economy of New Mexico, How does that fit in?

It is critical, since so much of the population is very poor. But there again, various organizations such as the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Committee, put together huge events to draw visitors, and they work, adding millions and millions of dollars to the local coffers. Of course, finding parking during the special occasions can be very hard. Parking is always a major topic of conversation is Santa Fe, especially. It’s really a very small town, with an infrastructure that barely keeps up, yet during a few weeks every year, like clockwork, its population swells. The local families do their best to avoid the downtown plaza during those times, such as Indian Market Week, or even when the Legislature is in session. Now, film makers have found a receptive State government, with tax relief for film companies, so the Hollywood crowd is pressing up against the Touristas, Fine Artists, the traditional families, the newly relocated, etc., etc. It’s a strange brew for what is still at heart, a religiously conservative, quiet, agrarian culture.

But isn’t Santa Fe one of those New Age vortexes, or whatever they call it?

Well, a lot of people come there for all kinds of reasons. Attracted by the scenic beauty and wide-open spaces, back in the 1960s, lots of hippie clans in converted school busses ran all over the landscape. Some remain out there. Some became land developers. There are also several Yogic and meditation ashrams, various monastic communities, Alternative colleges and free-thinkers jammed together with traditional American Indian people and the old Spanish families, ranchers and farmers. Did I mention the importance of tolerance? The New Mexico Department of Tourism could put out a new ad campaign every day of the year, directed at a different segment of the market, and not crossover once. It’s that varied. You can also drive ten minutes from your hotel, step out of your car, and walk ‘til sunset without seeing another person, completely enthralled by your surroundings.

Author's photo, shot from the hills high above Santa Fe, looking through Pinon Pines

Author’s photo, shot from the hills high above Santa Fe, looking through Pinon Pines

How did your experiences living in New Mexico find expression in your new book, Back to Santa Fe?

I guess it was the cultural interaction and confrontation that immediately began posing what-ifs. Tolerance is sometimes something thrust upon a person by necessity, rather than an outpouring of inner morality.  The intricate way this all works out was something we saw, in our business dealings every single day.

Also, the idea that appearances really don’t mean anything at all crops up in the book. Our last home in New Mexico was in a suburban subdivision that kind of grew up around us, but it had been grazing land for many hundreds of years before. When I dug irrigation trenches, I’d often find barbed wire buried just below the gravel surface, even old, wrought iron tools of unknown use or age.  It may have looked like we were the first ones to occupy our land, but the traces were all around us that we were just the most recent arrivals to hang on for a time.

Hang on? That doesn’t sound very settled.

Nope. I think that’s also to be found in the book. Life itself is fragile in New Mexico. A season of dry weather, and suddenly you don’t see any jackrabbits around anymore. The little white flower clumps disappear until right after the first big rain. I always felt like everything was just perched waiting to spring out, if given the opportunity. There’s also an amazing tenacity of all living things in a desert environment. They’re tough enough to last. The people who live close to the land also have that capacity for waiting and enduring. My main character is a guy who has to learn to slow down and stop listening to all the extraneous noise, before he can find the rhythm allowing him to finally recognize that he’s home.

Anything additional you want to say about him?

Sullivan Ortega has to live with his mixed bloodlines. In New Mexico, there are lots of folks whose parents crossed the culture line, and it’s not always easy for a child of mixed cultures to find their way in either one. His last name is kind of an inside joke, as the Ortega family has been in New Mexico since Coronado. I should say, one side of the Ortega family. There are also Texan Ortegas and Mexican Ortegas, but they might as well be complete newcomers, compared to the Old-Spanish Ortegas. Familial longevity is worn as a badge of honor, and Sullivan’s father never qualified for membership in that august clan despite his last name. Sullivan’s mother is seventh generation Irish-American, from famine people.

Author's photo from the ranch lands of Northern New Mexico, near Truchas.

Author’s photo from the ranch lands of Northern New Mexico, near Truchas.

Kind of an odd mix?

The two cultures actually have a lot in common – their closeness to the land, their devout faith, their desire to be left to their own ways. In Sullivan, however, they fight and confront each other constantly, resulting in a guy who doesn’t know where he belongs. The book really is just Sullivan’s journey to himself.  He finds the road is pretty well pot-holed, though, with lots of sharp unexpected turns.

What brought you to fiction writing?

My head’s been filled with swirling stories since I was a kid. Getting them out and onto paper… or a reader screen, quiets down the noise. One day, about seven years ago, I had a lot of time on my hands, so I started to jot down some ideas. The notes kind of ran together. I’d been writing grant proposals and advertising copy for quite a while by then, and it seemed like it was time to try something different.

W. T.?

Walter Thomas, but WT’s just fine.

# # # #

Back to Santa Fe is due for release on April 1st of this year. Watch this page for new information and advance review copy availability.

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