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Four books give our photogenic state its due

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By Kelly LeVan

New Mexico’s timeless small towns, seductive rivers, indomitable wildflowers and ever-spectacular light have inspired four northern New Mexico author/photographers to release new books this season.Glossy photos of this enchanted state dominate new offerings from New Mexico Magazine, the University of New Mexico and the Museum of New Mexico Press.Lesley S. King’s adorable “King of the Road (New Mexico Magazine, October 2007) features color portraits and landscapes, anecdotes, demographics, history, and colorful descriptions of signature events from seldom-read-about towns throughout the state. From attending the auction of a buttermilk pumpkin pecan pie in Cloudcroft to viewing the universe from the perspective of the Star Point Observatory in Clayton, the Santa Fe author takes part in myriad tiny, yet spirited stories – the sort small-town lives are made of.Research brought Taos’ Taylor Streit to the Valle Vidal, Chama and the “Wild Rivers” of the upper Rio Grande – the “side less fished,” he calls the area in his “Man Vs. Fish: The Fly Fisherman’s Eternal Struggle (University of New Mexico Press, November 2007). Streit also ventures to the Yacatán peninsula, Argentina, Patagonia and the Bahamas in the pages of this personal, witty and knowledge-filled book. Pictures of his friends, children and famous fish pepper Streit’s funny, completely entertaining writing. You don’t have to like fish to enjoy his discussion of “the best wool festival ever” or his internal discussions between Mr. Responsibility (“Mr. R” for short) and the Inner Fisherman, who never makes any money.A soon-to-be-released book on wildflowers is more than a field guide; “Mountain Wildflowers of the Southern Rockies: Revealing Their Natural History” (University of New Mexico Press, November 2007) by UNM professors Carolyn Dodson and William W. Dunmire. As you examine more than a hundred detailed close-up photos of flowers throughout the region, you’ll find everything you need to identify them in their natural habitats. You’ll also learn the economic importance of the Golden Pea, why Canada Violets need ants, why the genus Linnaeus is named after Carl Linnaeus, what happens when you roast a starchy bistwort rootstalk and why wine and jellies are only made from the blue-berried elderberries, never the red. This book contains so much information.Douglas Kent Hall has come a long way since he began his career shooting photos for The Santa Fe New Mexican. His award-winning work has found its way into exhibits around the world and several published books, including his newest volume, “In New Mexico Light” (Museum of New Mexico Press, November 2007). The 182 black-and-white photos and interwoven essay highlight the state’s characters, history and searing, spooky, crumbly beauty. Shadows and other forms of dark light play a bold role in the prints – the shadow of a car passing a bald landscape; faceless or nearly faceless silhouettes of cowboys, dancers and musicians; or a twilight reflection of an old-school bar on a slick, black, empty parking lot. Kent’s camera treats ordinary citizens from countries across New Mexico with the same dignity it bestows on Robert Creeley, Luis Jimenez, Tony Hillerman, Saul Williams, Sam Shepard, Dorothy Brett, Kim Basinger and other well-loved faces. With film and visible thoughtfulness, Kent honors New Mexicans’ artwork, places of worship, rituals and unflagging eccentricities. He clearly adores his subjects, but remains well above sentimentality, counting the light to convey its message. It never fails.The above books will all be available through Otowi Station Bookstore. Call 662-9589 to place an order.