“The Blue Chameleon” by Daril Cinquanta with Dennis Bloomquist
Daril Cinquanta was a super cop in Denver. He was a no-nonsense officer who solved some 400 who-done-its over 20 years but who nonetheless offended the administration and was forced to retire.
“The Blue Chameleon” is Cinquanta’s story of his life in the force. It is not a traditional biography. Mostly, it is a series of blurbs about his various arrests, confrontations and escapades, some funny, many dangerous. Read together, the vignettes tell about the challenges and dangers in a cop’s life.
The book includes some interesting tidbits. Corner houses are more vulnerable to break-ins. People who steal blank checks take them from the back of the checkbook. For the most part, criminals are not smart, Cinquanta writes. They use the same M.O. over and over again, which makes them easier to catch. He tells of a Super Bowl sting in which wanted felons were sent letters saying they had won Super Bowl tickets. When the men showed up to claim them, they were arrested.
Many cops are compassionate and use common sense, Cinquanta writes. When a fellow officer pulled over a man in a beater car because of excessive exhaust, Cinquanta told him to let the guy off. “This father cannot pay a ticket, let alone feed his family. You write the ticket, he will probably fail to appear and be put in jail and then his family is really screwed.”
The cops have their own code. You didn’t sleep with a fellow officer’s wife or girlfriend, and you didn’t give traffic tickets to a cop’s family. There were ways of getting revenge, such as letting the air out of the tires of cars belonging to pimps. And there were occasional perks. When Cinquanta caught a bookie at Patsy’s in North Denver with betting slips, he let him off — and never again paid for a meal at the restaurant.
“Santa Fe: The Chief Way” by Robert Strein, John Vaughan and C. Fenton Richards Jr.
Everybody of a certain age remembers passenger trains — the dining car, the service, the seats that had more leg room than first class on today’s airlines. Of all the different trains, the Santa Fe was the most romantic.
Even readers too young to know passenger trains will love the nostalgia of “Santa Fe: The Chief Way.”
The book is not a history of the railroad but rather a collection of promotional materials about the Chiefs and the Super Chiefs. The Santa Fe introduced the first Chief in 1926, when it converted to all-Pullman accommodations. The Super Chiefs came a decade later. The trains were designed with a Southwest motif. The red and yellow engine colors were chosen to resemble a war bonnet. There were sand paintings on the walls, etched Kachinas on glass dividers. The menus displayed sand paintings on their covers, and there were Hopi mudhead paintings on the wine list. The elegant dining car, which could be reserved for private parties, was called the Turquoise Room. Trains even employed Native Americans to roam the cars and entertain travelers.
Railway advertising featured the Southwest theme, too, and often showed Chico, the Navajo boy, writing “Santa Fe All the Way” in the desert sand.
The Santa Fe was the most popular train among celebrities traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago, and there are photographs in the book of silent screen stars who stopped at the Albuquerque station. The authors also include photographs of the Santa Fe depots and the collection of paintings the railroad acquired for its advertising.
By the 1960s, ridership had declined, a victim of airline competition and interstate highways, as well as the U.S. postal service, which stopped shipping mail by train. Amtrak took over the Santa Fe’s passenger service.
All that remains is nostalgia.
“The Light Shines from the West” by Robert C. Baron
American history is written from east to west, writes Robert C. Baron in the introduction to “The Light Shines from the West.” That’s because too many historians live on the East Coast. Some of them believe that “the river cutting America in two is the Hudson and not the Mississippi,” Baron writes.
Today, he maintains, “most innovation, growth, and ideas … come from the west. The ocean of commerce is now the Pacific and not the Atlantic.” America, he writes, is far more attuned to developments in the Pacific Rim than in Europe.
To back up his theory, Baron, who is the head of Colorado-based Fulcrum Press, has put together a series of essays, two-thirds written by himself, about the importance of the West. The essays begin with Thomas Jefferson (a favorite subject of his) and the Louisiana Purchase, and cover such subjects as Indians and women, the westward migration, politics and economics.
Many of those are popular subjects for historians these days, although the writers give them new twists. One of the best sections is on the rural West, written by Page Lambert. She tells of the isolation and abandonment many rural Westerners feel and the occasional in-migration from urban Americans searching for the mythical West. They are replacing those moving away who are aging and need the services and conveniences of large cities. Lambert ends with the traditional plea for Western states to anticipate growth and to plan for it.