For over 400 years, Santa Fe has attracted quite a cast of characters — from New Spain explorers to Old West cowboys, renegade priests to virtuous madams. Which, perhaps, explains why a legion of literary lions have found their stories (and made their homes) here. As you stock up on books for those fireside hours, I have a few recommendations. But my best tip? Pull your nose off the page and start your own exciting new chapter in Santa Fe.
Real People Make Rich Characters
You can’t go wrong with a classic. Countless visitors admire our gorgeous Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis, but how many delve into the history of the man who brought this magnificent edifice into being? Be among those in the know by settling down with Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather’s fictionalized portrait of Bishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy. This fascinating historical perspective is well worth getting to know. Your appreciation of his beautiful church and verdant garden will be enriched by this lively tale of a remarkable individual and his lasting Santa Fe legacy.
Mining Fact for Historical Fiction
Given Santa Fe’s rich multicultural heritage, authors digging for subject matter never come up short. Renowned archaeologist Adolph Bandelier is best known for the fabulous site that honored his excavation by naming it Bandelier National Park. One of New Mexico’s must-see spots, these extensive ruins are a magnet for locals and visitors alike. Your hike will never be the same after Bandelier’s imaginative gem, The Delight Makers, brings this ancient culture to life. And speaking of Native culture, a Santa Fe getaway always involves at least one great Tony Hillerman novel featuring his intriguing Native American detectives Jim Chee and Lt. Joe Leaphorn.
Santa Fe: Where Fantasy Fiction Reigns
Colorful characters still abound in Santa Fe, and winter nights are perfect for fantastic tales from one-of-a-kind local, George R. R. Martin. This prolific author, best known for his A Song of Fire and Ice series (aka HBO’s wildly successful Game of Thrones), has called Santa Fe home since the late 1970s. Fans avidly await the next book in the Fire and Ice series, but Santa Fe got an extra gift when Martin renovated the beloved Jean Cocteau Cinema, which delights film fans with a quirky selection of the old and new. And speaking of old and new, Martin fans who only know the Fire and Ice saga can keep themselves plenty busy with his rich collection of fantasy fiction.
A Real-Life SyFy Thriller
Specific events have indelibly marked modern life, and modern life is just as lively in the spoken word (read “screenplay”) as it is on the page. The exciting tale of the atom bomb has been writ large in today’s riveting WGN Manhattan TV series. The Manhattan Project was rooted in an unremarkable building at 109 East Palace Avenue in Santa Fe.
Scientists on their way to Los Alamos had to stop first at this 1600s hacienda-turned-government-office to receive security passes and IDs before heading north with directions to the clandestine site. Due to the top-secret nature of the project, 109’s personnel handled correspondence and personal matters so the geniuses could work in uninterrupted privacy. And WGN’s screenwriters have been handed a treasure trove of colorful characters in this exciting saga of “the Hill,” as it’s known around these parts.
Santa Fe in Verse
You can’t say “spoken word” and not talk poetry! Poetic types are well aware of poet Witter Bynner, whose charmed early 20th century Santa Fe lifestyle included acquaintances like D. H. Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams. Artists and intellectuals of all stripes shared pleasant hours at Bynner’s adobe home, now the Inn of the Turquoise Bear. A bequest from Bynner’s estate founded the Witter Bynner Poetry Foundation to perpetuate the art of poetry through grants and since 1997 the Witter Bynner Fellowship has been awarded to recipients selected by the U.S. Poet Laureate. Santa Fe even boasts its own poet laureate, and thanks to the Muse Times Two readings at Collected Works Books, poetic expression here is alive and thriving.
Let Your Legs Lead You on a Literary Tour
If you need to stretch between chapters, tell your feet to work together with your imagination and take a Literary Tour of the City Different. Add the Lannan Readings and Conversations to your literary survey of Santa Fe and your education is complete. After a trip to Santa Fe, you’ll have quite the story to tell!