JOAQUIN MURIETA WAS MY FRIEND
Joaquín Murieta Was My Friend is the story of an unlikely friendship forged in the days of the historic 1849 gold rush when California's population exploded with dreamers and rogues. Among the former is Michael Callahan who has survived a perilous ocean voyage around Cape Horn with equally ambitious Paddy Ryan. Both Irishmen are determined to strike it rich in the swift, cold rivers that flow down the western slopes of the High Sierras.
During a dramatic chance encounter, Michael Callahan will meet the legendary outlaw Joaquín Murieta who vows vengeance against those who had raped and beaten his beautiful wife to death.
Joaquín Murieta Was My Friend is about love, courage and above all, an enduring friendship that transcends racial hatred. Historically accurate, told by Michael Callahan who has also become known as The Gringo Amigo this is a novel that not only is sure to entertain, but also carry its readers into those wild times of early Gold Rush California.
The Legend of Joaquín Murieta continues to fascinate, confound and serve as an endless source of historical debate. The "Ghost of Sonora" remains the quintessential mythical horseman, the great El Patricio of the West who returned ethnic pride to an oppressed Mexican people suffering great injustices after losing California in the Bear Flag Revolution.
I don't believe that any serious historians doubt that there were many superb Mexican vaqueros in California during the Forty-Niner Gold Rush who turned against the law. The newspaper accounts, accurately referenced and quoted throughout this novel, make it very clear that a Mexican named Joaquín did, for a few bloody and exciting months early in 1853, exert terror among the inhabitants of the southern gold fields. What does remain in doubt is if this bandito's name was, in fact, Joaquín Murieta. And if it was, did he become a famous outlaw because of an outrage against his wife and a flogging that left him near death? What cannot be argued is that a small band of Mexicans, including outlaws thought to be Joaquín Murieta and the vicious Three-fingered Jack Garcia, were killed by Captain Harry Love and his Rangers on July 25, 1853.
For years afterward, Joaquín's head had quite a story of its own. Exhibited all over California by Harry Love and several others, the head attracted large crowds willing to pay the munificent sum of one dollar in order to gape and stare with morbid fascination at the grisly trophies. When the crowds finally began to dwindle, the San Francisco Alta, on February 10, 1856, reported that "The head and hand [actually Three-fingered Jack's hand] of the celebrated guerrilla robber, Joaquín, have been purchased by Mr. Craigmiles of this city, who leaves on the next steamer with his ghastly property, for New Orleans. He intends exhibiting them through the interior cities of the United States, and wintering them at New York. He confidently expects to realize $50,000 with his speculation."
By 1881 the head and hand were permanent attractions in San Francisco at the Pacific Museum, where this novel begins with Senator Paddy Ryan just a few days after the devastation in 1906. It took that great act of nature to allow the supposed head of Joaquín to achieve its well-deserved and final rest, probably somewhere under the rebuilt city.
Over the next century, more and more evidence has been found to support the thesis that the head displayed so many years did not belong to the real Joaquín Murieta, who probably escaped to Mexico and lived to a very ripe old age. It is said that Joaquín's bones lie in the old Jesuit cemetery of Cucupe, high in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Sonora.
And though this story is fiction, Joaquín might well have needed help to plot a ruse that would allow him to escape California without being forever hounded by the law. If so, I would like to think that friends or lovers like Michael Callahan, the Gringo Amigo, and the beautiful Aurora are resting in that Jesuit cemetery too.