Author W. Michael Farmer believes that the plots of his historical novels should adhere to known facts, because such an approach “helps keep the reader’s interest in what happened and helps them ask good questions.” history questions. Sometimes this belief led him to write accompanying books – a story and a novel – on the same subject. Farmer based his first novel, Hombrecito’s War, about the unsolved 1896 murders of New Mexico Territory legislator and attorney Albert Jennings Fountain and his 8-year-old son, Henry. To this historical plot, however, the author has added a fictional Apache character. More recently, Farmer published his story Geronimo: prisoner of lies, twenty-three years as a prisoner of war, 1886-1909 (2019), followed by his novel Geronimo’s Odyssey (2020), and he is working on other books focusing on both historical and fictional Apache stories.
What inspired you to research and write about Apaches?
When I wrote my first novel, about the Fountain murders, I used a Mescalero tribal policeman character, Yellow Boy, as the virtually invisible man who saved the child [Henry Fountain], became his mentor and taught him a lot about the world. To develop the character of Yellow Boy, I started researching the culture and history of the Mescaleros. It was an eye-opening experience, especially when I realized how different the Apache culture is from that of the Plains Indians. The more I researched the Apaches, the more I wanted to know. In the process, I discovered that if you want to understand Apache history, you must first understand their culture.
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What intrigued you about the Fountain murders?
What happened to the fountains is a big mystery, and like most people in New Mexico, I was curious about their disappearance. In the introduction to [his 1958 novel] warlock Oakley Hall said that the business of fiction is about finding the truth, not the facts. I decided to write a fictional story about the murders that might give me some insight into who the murderers were after reading [C.L.] Sonnichsen  book Tularosawhat gave [suspect] Oliver Lee the benefit of the doubt, while Leon Metz, in his biography of Pat Garrett, claimed that Lee was guilty. I never intended to write a novel, just a story of maybe 10,000 to 20,000 words for my own benefit that might give me a good idea of who the murderers were. I started writing and doing research. When I finished the story it was 18,000 words and I had learned how much I loved writing.
How did you approach the writing from Geronimo’s point of view?
I spent hours researching Apache culture and history. I have read what George Wratten, the famous army interpreter with Apaches in captivity, had Geronimo say in English, for example, Generals George Crook and Nelson Miles, Teddy Roosevelt and the artist Elbridge Ayer Burbank and at church services when he decided to become a Christian. I learned what a terribly complex and fascinating character Geronimo was. I wanted my readers to understand his humanity, why he thought the way he did, and see things the way he saw them. Telling his story from his perspective was the easiest way to convey his humanity, his warts and all, and I wanted the story of the story to be accurate.
How do you rate Geronimo as a tactician?
Geronimo was a brilliant and fearless tactician, but he sometimes made very poor judgments.
For example, when he and Juh (leader of the Nednhi Chiricahuas, with strongholds in northern Mexico) left San Carlos in September 1881, they had over 375 people with them and crossed the border with the loss of two men, two wives and three children. while being pursued by hundreds of horsemen and Apache scouts from San Carlos. Six months later, Geronimo led the warriors who forced about 350 people from Loco out of San Carlos and brought them to the border while again being pursued by hundreds of horsemen and Apache scouts, and again , he only lost five or six people.
After crossing the border, he let them stop and rest, against the advice of Chato, Naiche and Kaytennae. Geronimo assumed the cavalry wouldn’t cross the border (legally they couldn’t), but the cavalry crossed the border anyway and two days later attacked them in a seven-hour fight that killed 14 warriors and several women. The next day, the Apaches were ambushed by Mexican soldiers waiting for them at Aliso Creek. Most of the Apaches escaped after another long day of fighting between two parallel arroyos – one filled with Apaches, the other with Mexicans. But Loco lost nearly 40 percent of his people, mostly women and children, in the two days of fighting.
In 1886, after Geronimo and Naiche separated from those who surrendered to General Crook at the end of March, they had 18 men and 22 women and children. General Miles’ army chased them through southern Arizona and northern Sonora for five months with 5,000 troops. The Mexican army chased them with 3,000 soldiers to Sonora and Chihuahua, and there were many civilians on both sides of the border. The Apaches did not lose a single warrior captured or killed in the five months before the surrender of Geronimo and his warriors.
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