Animal Parts has been declared a finalist in the 2017 New Mexico Book Co-op Writing Contest. New Mexico writers recognize one of their own, Peter Romero, a cop like no other. See http://www.nmbookcoop.com/2017FinalistList.pdf for full list. Awards are Nov 17. Wish me luck!
The genocide of Native Americans by Euro-Americans from 1492 to about 1890 remains an atrocious and shameful episode in American history. About the time this reviewer believes this era, one utterly devoid of social justice, had ended, I am proven wrong. Mistreatment of original Americans continued long after Wounded Knee.
Killers of the Flower Moon, The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann details a series of murders of wealthy Osage tribal members in the 1920s. The discovery of oil beneath tribal lands brought the Osage not only enormous wealth, but targeted them for swindle and murder.
Grann details how Osage victims disappeared. Some were shot point-blank in the head. A man was thrown from a train. A couple was burned to death in their own beds. A whistle blower was murdered on his first night in Washington D. C. An unknown number were poisoned. Investigators hired by the Osage were murdered. Many Osage lost not only their lives but fortunes as well due to the schemes of white relatives.
During this carnage, law enforcement turned a blind eye. The Osage County Sheriff was fighting corruption charges and had little inclination to investigate the murder of Indians (incidentally, the sheriff was convicted, then re-elected). Initial investigations by the FBI proved incompetent.
Stung by the Teapot Dome scandal, an exasperated J. Edgar Hoover assigned Special Agent Tom White, a former Texas Ranger to the case. White proved to be a dogged investigator who brought two killers to justice. Both were convicted, sentenced to life, then paroled.
The known murders of Osage numbers thirty-six, but Grann, a meticulous researcher, uncovers more evidence of wrong doing. Osage family lore and long-overlooked records suggest there may have been more than one hundred people killed during this period they call the Reign of Terror.
Grann’s book is an excellent resource for readers who demand the cultural record be accurately informed.
Check out my interview with David at https://sites.google.com/site/dalanbinder/blog/davidknopinterviewwithdavidalanbinder
For those who are familiar with my novels, you will undoubtedly recognize Cougar. All of the animals in my novels serve a purpose that is richer than mere additional conflict and dialogue. They are vital components to a capricious and delicate natural ecosystem, but all of them are guides, both spiritually and metaphysically, for my main character, Cochiti tribal policeman Peter Romero.
Guide animals in my novels are so named by their proper names e.g., Cougar, Coyote, Wolf, and Bear, etc., reflecting Native Americans’ reverence and each animal spirit’s personality. Historically, all have specific and far-ranging spiritual influence across tribes. Interestingly, dissimilar cultures imbue these animal guides with similar attributes (e.g., Coyote is always the trickster.)
Cougar is one of the most compelling characters of my Peter Romero series. Beautiful, sleek, mysterious, he is also a killer…passionate, unapologetic, and mesmerizing. For those who would like to know the lions of America, and learn more about Cougar himself, I’ll share some facts about mountain lions.
A dwindling species, few of us have had the privilege of seeing one (hopefully from far away) in the wild. They have many commonly-used names: “cougar”, “panther”, and “puma” among them. Regardless of the name they’re called, this majestic animal has been revered throughout the centuries by Native Americans. It is to our detriment that the reverence has faded as the animals now struggle to survive. They’re losing population but, just like his spirit, this is one tough cat.
Physical Attributes: He’s a big kitty.
- Body Length: 39-59″, Tail Length:24-35″
- Height: 24-30″, Weight: 66-176 lbs., though there are records of them reaching 250lbs. 1
Coat color varies from buff to reddish brown, to light silver and slate grey. The coat is short, coarse, uniform in color, and essentially unmarked. Cougar’s head is relatively small for a large cat, with dark brown to black patches on the muzzle, and beautiful irises of green gold to yellow brown. The ears are short and rounded, with forelegs shorter than hind legs, and footpads are large. The tail is long and slim. Cats found in Central and South America are smaller than those found in North America.
Distribution: He’s probably watching you now.
Cougar has the largest range of any terrestrial mammal in the western hemisphere. They roam from the Yukon in Canada to the southern tip of South America. Population densities have been estimated at no more than four adults per forty square miles in North America, and up to eight in South America. Radio telemetry studies in Chile found Cougar ranging up to forty square miles, with the cats often covering seven miles in just a few hours.
Survival Skills: You can’t outrun Cougar but you can outrun your buddy.
Adaptable and athletic, Cougar has great leaping, climbing, and swimming ability. Sight is his most acute sense, hearing is well developed, but his sense of smell, unlike dogs, is not particularly keen.
The bulk of Cougar’s traveling and hunting is done at night. The cat hunts over a wide area, carefully stalking prey and leaping on its back, or seizing after a short, swift dash. In North America, deer make up sixty to eighty percent of the diet. Cougar will eat whatever is most abundant in any given ecosystem, but seldom eats carcasses killed by other animals.
Cubs (or kittens) are adorable, spotted, fluff balls with dark brown spots over a brown buff coat. Spots fade away as they grow. Brilliant blue eyes change to greenish yellow or yellowish brown by sixteen months of age. These amazing cats can live to twenty years of age
Legendary Influence: He’s got pull.
Many cultures sought the big cats for spiritual inspiration. For example:
- The Peruvian city of Cuzco was laid out in the shape of Cougar.
- Peru’s Lake Titicaca (gray-colored puma) is still sacred to local natives.
- US Great Lakes tribes believed the tail of an underwater panther, whipped up waves and storms.
- To the Algonquins, the underwater panther was the most powerful underworld being.
- The Ojibwe traditionally held them to be masters of all water creatures, including snakes.
- Christian missionaries in Southern California found Cougar to be an obstacle due to natives’ refusal to hunt the cat.
- New Mexico’s Cochiti Indians (Peter Romero’s home tribe) carved life-sized stone statues of Cougar and created a mesa-top shrine in his honor.
Conservation: Where are they? Can I help?
By the second half of the 20th century the mountain lion population was forced west of the Rockies. The only area where Cougar survived historical extermination and removal is a single population in the Everglades forests of southern Florida.
But all the news is not bad. Cougar is re-populating former Midwest habitats. Since the 1960s, the cats have become managed game species. In California, Cougar is a protected mammal. Populations are now growing and expanding their territories. Breeding programs established in the Dakota Black Hills and Badlands and western Nebraska have been successful. Sightings of Cougar in Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, and Illinois are frequent. Today, the Mountain Lion Foundation counts Cougar’s population in the US as 30,000 animals.
The main threat to Cougar today is deadly highway traffic and rural development. Highway crossings and underpasses are required to prevent further losses. Outside North America, Cougar is shot on sight or subject to bounties. More prudent game management is needed. Despite wholesale loss of habitat and suppression of the cat’s numbers, Cougar is not considered endangered.
There are many programs we can join to help in the preservation of these magnificent animals. Click here to start: http://www.defenders.org/mountain-lion/what-you-can-do
To read about the powers of Peter Romero’s own spirit guide, Cougar, read Animal Parts by David E Knop. Found on Amazon and everywhere eBooks are sold.
Animal Parts was bestowed an Honorable Mention in the 11th PSWA Conference in Las Vegas, NV, in July 2016!
The thrilling mystery, Animal Parts by David E Knop, would’ve won First Place at the 11th annual PSWA Writers Conference but having a hungry 170lb mountain lion as your companion tends to complicate things.
Cougar asks that you read Animal Parts…and soon.
A Review of Animal Parts by David E Knop by the illustrious US Review of Books
by David E. Knop
reviewed by Joe Kilgore
“They dragged the blubbering man off and the door slammed. Silence. Dark silence. Romero knew he wasn’t dead. Death couldn’t hurt this much.”
When it comes to novels, it’s virtually impossible to think about the combination of crime, mystery, and Native Americans, and not think about Tony Hillerman. His Navajo Tribal Police stories gave readers a different way to view people who had frequently been marginalized and too often caricatured in books, films, and television. This author’s oeuvre is similar, yet distinctive in its own right. His third and latest installment of the life and times of Cochiti Pueblo Police Officer Peter Romero is addictively engaging, thoroughly entertaining, even occasionally educational when it comes to events in history and tribal migration seen from a different perspective.
The book opens compellingly with a cougar in the crosshairs of a high-powered rifle. The big cat had recently attacked a couple of hikers, and Romero had been paid to dispatch the animal. One shot kills the beast, but his death is not the end. Actually it’s only the beginning of an adventure filled with danger, brutality, and mysticism.
It seems that poachers are out and about and it’s Romero’s job to find and stop them. But as is generally the case in these sorts of tales, there’s more here than meets the eye. While some poaching is being done to feed hungry families affected by the sluggish economy in New Mexico, there’s also mounting evidence that much of it is being done to fuel the lucrative but highly illegal market in animal parts. Elk and more are being found with their brains and sexual organs removed—organs that will likely end up in very expensive and questionably effective aphrodisiacs. But then the poachers start to end up dead. Not just shot, stabbed, or choked, mind you, but totally eviscerated. One might even say eaten.
Of course Romero must intercede, but things are not going well for him. His wife has left him, and he wants her to return. Local officials have sanctioned him, and he wants them off his back. A thoroughly alluring FBI agent might be coming on to him, and he’s not at all sure he can marshal the reserves to resist. His neighbor is attacked by something that appears to be neither man nor animal, and to top it all off, the cougar he was sure he killed returns. Just when it looks like things couldn’t possibly get worse, they get horrific.
Knop starts his tale in high gear and never takes his foot off the accelerator. He maintains a blistering pace not only with tightly woven subplots that zip from one chapter to the next, but also with prose that is short, sharp, and finely tuned. His exposition is quick and clipped. His dialogue is realistically conversational and spot on when it comes to nailing the way people actually react. This is a confidently written tale by an excellent storyteller.
Not surprisingly, there is even a surprise ending, which will certainly not be revealed here. Some readers may well find it completely appropriate, while others might find it slightly maddening, but whichever camp you find yourself in, you’ll have had an exciting dash to the finish line through the pages of this first rate thriller.
Read the super review here: US Review of Books-Animal Parts
Please let us know what you think!
Animal Parts, a mystery by David E. Knop, was awarded Honorable Mention at the prestigious Public Safety Writers Association Writing Contest held in Las Vegas. PSWA members include police officers, civilian police personnel, firefighters, emergency personnel, security personnel and others in the public safety field.
It was a high bar to pass the scrutiny of judges who have spent most of their lives in the field keeping us safe. I am deeply honored.
You can see the video announcement here. Enjoy!
The Launch of Animal Parts…
For more information on the launch, please contact Molly Knop by visiting her blog at molotovink.com.
Sunday, April 10th from 3:30-6:30, I will be celebrating the launch of my latest novel, Animal Parts, A Peter Romero Mystery.
There will be a reading from my novel, Animal Parts, an art show, and music by The Silver Spurs.
Location will be at the Coronado Community Center, Boathouse Club room. You can find the address and directions on their website, www.coronado.ca.us.
Hope to see you soon!
When we think of cannibalism in North America, we often envision worst-case scenarios of cultural practices, as in the case of the Aztecs, where eating fellow humans held spiritual significance, or survival, as practiced by the desperate Donner Party. Today, the popular press often takes full advantage of cases where the hunger for human flesh is driven by psychosis as in the case of Jeffrey Dahmer.
But first, semantics. Most dictionaries define cannibalism as the eating of human flesh by another human. Despite its initial application to humans, the term was co-opted by zoologists and is now defined more broadly as the eating of the flesh of an animal by another of its own kind, or intraspecific predation.
Here are a few historical examples of cultural – and survival – cannibalism in North America.
1492: The New World
On Day One of this continent’s recorded history, the very word cannibal was given birth by Christopher Columbus who referred to the natives of Haiti and Cuba as canibales, a variant of Carib, the name they gave themselves. Whether or not the Caribs were actually cannibals is disputed, but fifteenth-century observers accused them of such behavior and the name stuck.
1519 – 1521: Mexico
The Aztecs are perhaps the most widely studied ancient New World peoples. It’s true that ritual cannibalism took place in the context of human sacrifices, but the thesis that human flesh was a significant portion of the Aztec diet is not widely supported. And given European sensitivities on the practice, the following testimonies could have been exaggerated.
Hernan Cortez wrote in one of his letters that an Indian ate a piece of flesh taken from the body of an Indian who had been killed. The first Mesoamerican ethnographer, Sahagun, published an illustration of a captured Aztec being cooked by an unknown tribe.
A sacrificed victim was sometimes given to the warrior responsible for the capture. He would boil the body and cut it to pieces to be offered as gifts to important people in exchange for presents and slaves. Some human parts made their way to markets near present day Mexico City.
Bernal Díaz saw young men in cages ready to be sacrificed and eaten. He said Aztec warriors were so confident of victory against the conquistadors in an upcoming battle, that, “…they wished to kill us and eat our flesh, and had already prepared the pots with salt and peppers and tomatoes”. In temples, Diaz found large pots where the human flesh of sacrificed natives was boiled and cooked to feed the priests. He also said he witnessed human meat for sale; thick wooden cages full of Indian men, women and boys who were fattened, then eaten. Díaz’s testimony is corroborated by other Spanish historians.
2000 B.C. – 1700: The American Southwest
Scientists have developed criteria that provide a post-death signature of cannibalism for skeletal remains. Evidence of human consumption has been found near Polacca Wash, First Mesa Hopi villages, in present day Arizona, where thirty bodies showed extensive evidence of violence, butchery, and likely cannibalism. In the Mesa Verde region of today’s Colorado, Anasazi (the Ancient Ones) cannibalistic activities are supported by bone evidence, blood residue, and the presence of human coprolite (petrified poop).
Archeologists continue to dig for further evidence of humans eating humans in the American Southwest. I suspect more gustatory evidence will be found just beneath the surface.
1527: Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca and the Karankawa
The journey of Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca remains one of the most amazing feats of exploration in the Americas. In early 1527, he left Spain for North America and landed near Tampa Bay, Florida. The party soon overstayed its welcome with local Indians. Pursued by the natives and suffering from numerous diseases, the surviving members of the expedition were reduced to huddling in a coastal swamp and living off the flesh of their horses. In late 1528, they built several crude rafts from trees and horse-hides and set sail hoping to return to Cuba. A hurricane dumped de Vaca, and eighty of his companions, on the Gulf Coast near what is now Galveston, Texas.
The local Karankawa, reputed cannibals, welcomed de Vaca. For the next four years he, and a steadily dying number of his comrades, lived in the complex native world of what is now East Texas. Legends say the Karankawa ate captured enemy warriors and leaders after battle to ingest magic power, but not for food. Other Texas Indians were also accused of similar ritual eating, but de Vaca reported the opposite. He saw no cannibalism in the natives. In fact, the Indians were furious at the Spaniards for eating human flesh during the winter of 1528. In October 1534, Cabeza de Vaca escaped with the three remaining Europeans, and made his way west and south to Mexico and safety.
16th Century: Iroquois Nation
In Ameria’s Northeast, the Iroquois nation practiced human cannibalism to appease the appetite of a war god who demanded that captives be taken, tortured and eaten. The evidence for Iroquoian cannibalism comes from historical accounts of Jesuit missionaries who worked with the Iroquois and the warring Huron nations. There are also numerous Dutch, English, and French accounts of captives witnessing the fates of their comrades who were tortured, cut up and eaten in front of them. The Iroquois were reported to practice cannibalism until 1756.
17th Century: American Mid-west/North –Windigo (or Wendigo)
What about the thought that eating one person may lead to eating others? Such is the windigo creature, a legendary, half-beast of the Algonquian people along the Atlantic coast and Great Lakes region of the US and Canada. The windigo possesses characteristics of a human or a monster and suffers from what is now called the disputed modern medical term, Windigo Psychosis. This condition features symptoms such as an intense craving for human flesh and a fear by the sufferer he/she is a cannibal. Two men were tried for acts supposedly driven by this psychosis. In 1878, Swift Runner, a Canadian Cree, and his family were starving. Twenty-five miles away from emergency food supplies at Hudson Bay, Swift Runner butchered and ate his wife and five children. He was executed the next summer. Another well-known case was that of Jack Fiddler, an Oji-Cree chief known for his powers at defeating windigo by killing them. Fiddler and his brother Joseph were arrested by the Canadian authorities for murder. Jack committed suicide, but Joseph was tried and sentenced to life in prison, then granted a pardon three days before he died.
1874: Alferd Packer
In the winter of 1874, Packer left with five others for an expedition in the Colorado mountains prospecting for gold. Two months later Packer returned alone. When questioned of the whereabouts of the men that had been with him, Packer said he ha killed them in self defense and was forced to eat their remains in order to survive the elements. His story was not believed. After two signed and separate confessions, Packer was given a forty-year sentence. At trial, lore has it, the judge admonished Packer by saying, “Alferd Packer, you son-of-a-bitch, there were three Republicans in this county and you ate two of them.” Amazingly he was later granted parole because sufficient doubt remained about his innocence.
His name lives on. The University of Colorado’s student union eatery, the Alferd Packer Restaurant & Grill, offers everything from salads to burgers in home-style comfort, plus lots of grab-n-go items for that quick stop between classes or meetings. Maybe winter mountain gold hunting?
1847: Donner Party
The Donner Party has become synonymous with cannibalism in the United States. The Donner Party (or Donner-Reed Party) set out for California by wagon train in May 1846. Delayed by a series of mishaps and mistakes, they spent the winter of 1846–47 snowbound in the Sierra Nevada near Truckee (now Donner) Lake, high in the mountains. Their food supplies ran extremely low, and by mid-February, forty-eight of eighty-seven survived to reach California, many of them having eaten the dead for survival. Historians have described the episode as one of the most bizarre and spectacular tragedies in Californian history and western-US migration. Here, the driving force was self-preservation and the preservation of close kin, especially children. About half of the party could not overcome their deep-seated feelings against cannibalism, however, and claimed that they never participated in the act. Women survived the ordeal better than men for several reasons, including having a smaller body size, a slower metabolic rate, and more body fat; expending less energy procuring firewood, primarily a man’s task; and for some, having strong maternal instincts that drove them to keep themselves and their children alive at all costs. Although at the end, half of the party succumbed to extreme hunger and cold, fewer would have survived had they not chosen to eat their dead comrades.
The grizzly story of cannibalism in America is long and far more common than one would imagine. As repulsive as it is, cannibalism has a constant presence in history, whether motivated by hunger or psychosis, and is here to stay.