The Gold of El Negro

Written by Michael C. Haley
Review by Meredith Campbell

When Louis L’ Amour died, Michael Haley decided to write his own western fiction. Born and bred in New Mexico, Haley brings to his work authentic knowledge of Western lore and geography. Durango Gold, his first novel, and this, his second, are both set in 1869 New Mexico. Here, mulatto Gabriel Waller tells the story. A slave in the household of his white father before the Civil War, Gabriel has fled west to seek his white half-brother Eli, protagonist in Haley’s first novel. Blizzards, Indians, and murderous banditos confront Gabriel in his search. So too, does he meet gentle backpack-peddler Juan Martinez. Through encountering these mixed forces, Gabriel comes to realize what it means to act and think as a free man.

Though it gets off to a romping, action-packed start with Gabriel fending off Mescalero Apaches, this book develops at a more reflective pace than Haley’s first. However, the reader experiences a solid sense of “place” and meets well-developed characters. Concise sentences, filled with colorful phrasing, and peppered with Spanish words, the story is an absorbing read–a must for western fans.