(Readers: This is an expanded version of a post filed earlier this week)

Adam James Jones discusses his new book “The Vendetta of Felipe Espinosa” at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 4 at Bookworks, 4022 Rio Grande NW.

By David Steinberg

Ever heard of the outlaw Felipe Espinosa? My guess is that you probably haven”t. I know I hadn’t until I talked to Adam James Jones.

Jones’ new book will tell you plenty about Espinosa, who went on a killing spree in 1863 in Northern New Mexico and Central Colorado.

Espinosa killed 32 men, all Anglo settlers, during the summer and into the fall of that year, he said.

Jones’s debut novel, “The Vendetta of Felipe Espinosa” reveals the author as a born storyteller with a talent for setting scenes, language and description. Here is, for example, the opening of the third chapter: “It was an autumn evening, the wind biting at her ears and smelling of dead flowers, that Maria heard a dim bellowing choir floating north form Santa Fe. Then she heard them, a dark herd frothing dust as it approached. …”

Though it’s a historical novel, “Vendetta” is based on Jones’ investigation into events in the Espinosa’s life. “So little has been written about Espinosa and what has been written is from those who hunted him down,” Jones said in a phone interview. The scout Tom Tobin led a posse that killed Espinosa.

“But we can infer quite a few things about why Espinosa might have snapped,” he said.

After the United States took control of land in the Southwest following the Mexican War, Mexican citizens in those territories found themselves now living in the United States. Some felt they were displaced persons. Others, like Espinosa, remained faithful to Mexico in their hearts, Jones said.

“We have Espinosa in skirmishes with the U.S. Army which allowed Anglo settlers on land that he and his family had lived on for generations. Issues like that probably led to this rampage,” he said.

Espinosa left a diary, he said, and a few things that were copied from it remark that he was intensely religious. “In one passage he had a dream of the Virgin Mary telling him to kill,” Jones said.

Espinosa was born and raised in El Rito, N.M., and later he moved to San Rafael, Colo., now the town of Antonito, he said.

“Almost everything known about him is in the book. The reason I novelized it was to step into his shoes and try to figure out his motivations or at least speculate upon them.” The novel also incorporates aspects of New Mexico history during the American Civil War.

Jones explained why he took an interest in the outlaw.

He is from the same isolated region in Colorado where most of Espinosa’s killing spree occurred. “In fact, it is believed that two of his victims were gunned down at the base of Red Hill Pass. That locale is on my family’s ranch where I grew up. The pass is near the town of Fairplay. A cemetery near the town’s center is where six of his victims are buried,” Jones said.

The book was released in November 2014 by Five Star Publishing.

Jones currently lives in Pecos, N.M. He teaches English and coaches the wrestling team at Pecos Middle School.

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