My guest today is historical romance author Parris Afton Bonds talking about some interesting things she found while researching her novels. Declared by ABC’s Nightline as one of the three best-selling authors of romantic fiction, Parris has been interviewed by such luminaries as Charlie Rose and featured in major newspapers as well as published in more than a dozen languages. She donates her time to teaching creative writing to both grade school children and female inmates. The Parris Award was established in her name by the Southwest Writers Workshop to honor a published writer who has given outstandingly of time and talent to other writers. Prestigious recipients of the Parris Award include Tony Hillerman and the Pulitzer nominee Norman Zollinger.
Today she is sharing fascinating tidbits of trivia, the truth that was, indeed, stranger than fiction she discovered while researching her sagas, historical fiction, and historical romances. In Parris’ words, “I have stumbled over many that I was unable to use at the time.”
While doing background research for Blue Moon, I learned that the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa was never captured. In 1923 he was murdered by his former followers in Hidalgo del Parral, south of Chihuahua City. Villa’s last words were, “Don’t let it end like this. Tell them I said something.”
Interestingly, two of the aristocratic Spanish-Mexican refugees from Villa’s rampage went on to become Hollywood film stars: Gilbert Roland from Chihuahua and Dolores Del Rio from Durango. Miss Del Rio’s family name, Lopez Negrete, was the same as that of the Durango hacendados whose son Villa claimed had raped his sister. Coincidence?
Tom Mix, one of Villa’s lieutenants at the First Battle of Juarez in 1911 rode off on his horse, Tony, to become one of the heroes of the early Hollywood westerns. He later became famous for branding ~ no, not as in branding irons, but as in incessant promotion. He had his initials embossed on everything: on his diamond and platinum belt buckles, his house, and his cars. A neon sign mounted atop his Hollywood mansion sported the eye-blinding TM logo. His initials were also imbedded into the tread of his yellow Cord’s tires so that when he drove down the dirt streets of Hollywood, he left his mark everywhere.
And speaking of Tonys, Tony Lama, an El Paso shoemaker, outfitted the 1917 Punitive Expedition against Villa with hand cobbled boots. Finally, the troops of the Punitive Expedition had the lowest rate of syphilis among American soldiers, due to General Pershing’s insistence on their use of prophylactics.
And then there was my work to write For All Time. If there is such a thing as karma, young U.S. General Ranald ‘Bad Hand’ MacKenzie suffered a tragic ending. In 1873 MacKenzie's violent and unauthorized raid across the Texas border against peaceful Kickapoo Indians farming in Mexico went uncensored by the United States. Nevertheless, his mental and physical condition began to deteriorate rapidly within a decade of the Mexico expedition.
By 1883 "he was incapable of carrying out his duties and through secret stratagems was relieved and sent to the Bloomingdale Asylum in New York, where he was diagnosed with "general paralysis of the insane," and died at the youthful age of forty-eight.
While doing research for my book Indian Affairs, I discovered that U.S. Interior Secretary Albert Fall became the first American cabinet figure to be sent to prison for a crime committed in office. The resulting Teapot Dome affair is considered the worst modern political scandal before Watergate. Because he was the only person convicted in the scandal, the term “Fall Guy” became a part of the American language.
In the midst of my research for Lavender Blue, I came across an interesting fact: Both the first battle of the Mexican-American War and the last battle of the Civil War were fought near Brownsville, Texas. The last battle of the Civil War occurred more than a month after Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox, and the captors, the Confederacy, ironically became the captured.
Finally, during the course of my work on Star Dust, I discovered that Nellie Tayloe Ross was the first woman to be elected governor of a U.S. state and remains the only woman to have served as governor of Wyoming. President Franklin Roosevelt appointed her as the first female director of the U. S. Mint in 1933, where she served five full terms until her retirement in 1953. She is famous for creating the Franklin half dollar and launching the making of proof coins for public sale.
Paris asks… General Patton won a gold medal in the 1912 Olympics. For what? One lucky commenter will win her book Blue Moon in which the question is answered!