ADDRESSES: Home—Lipan, TX. Agent—c/o Author Mail, St. Martin's Press/Dunne, 175 5th Ave., Rm. 1715, New York, NY 10010.
CAREER: Writer, novelist, and educator. Has worked as a journalism teacher.
AWARDS, HONORS: Medicine Pipe Bearer Award, Western Writers of America, for Death of a Healing Woman.
"TEXANA JONES" MYSTERY SERIES
Death of a Healing Woman, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996.
Death of a Saint Maker, St. Martin's Press/Dunne (New York, NY), 1997.
Death of an Evangelista, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.
Death of a Myth Maker, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2000.
Death of the Last Villista, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Death of the River Master, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Novelist Allana Martin is the author of the Texana Jones series of mystery novels, set on the dusty, rugged borderlands between Texas and Mexico. The first novel, Death of a Healing Woman, takes place in El Polvo, Texas, on the Mexican border. Texana owns a trading post and is married to Clay, a veterinarian. The plot centers around the deaths of two of Texana's friends and Rhea Fair, an aging recluse and curandera, or healing woman. The authorities say the killings were random and connected with the drug wars that rage along the border. Texana learns that missing is Linden Fonda, a young journalist who had written her thesis about Rhea and was the last person to see the healer alive. In solving the crimes, Texana enlists help from both sides of the border, and a rabies outbreak figures in the solution of the crimes. Booklist reviewer Stuart Miller wrote, "the story's climax falls a bit flat," but concluded that Martin's first novel "offers an excellent sense of place and strong characters." A reviewer in Publishers Weekly stated that the characters are "hardworking, goodhearted eccentrics and farmers, all richly portrayed." A Kirkus Reviews critic called the book "a persuasive portrait of bicultural life along a vibrant, violent border."
In Death of a Saint Maker, a Mexican wood carver, known as the Saint Maker, is killed, and the first suspect is a dog. A ransom is placed on the animal's head; but, when it is discovered that the dog is not the killer, Texana attempts to protect it from bounty hunters. Texana's husband Clay is enlisted by DEA agents to uncover a suspected drug dealer, and the tie-in to the wood carver evolves. A reviewer wrote in Publishers Weekly: "Martin ties up the murder and the motive while giving readers a slow-paced story spicy with Southwestern atmosphere."
Death of an Evangelista is trading post-owner Texana Jones's third adventure. While in Mexico, Texana gets into a taxi, only to find it already occupied by a man apparently stabbed to death. She manages to get back to Texas where a chain of mysterious and unpleasant events begins to happen, culminating in an evangelist's brutal slaying. A Publishers Weekly critic called this novel "atmospheric but unfocused," praising Martin's "rich knowledge of the Texas-Mexico frontier," but expressing dissatisfaction about "bloated plotting [leaving] entire story lines untended" and its "many loose ends."
In the language of the Texas border community in Death of a Myth-Maker a mitotero, or myth-maker, is a big talker, a boastful showoff, or someone who cannot always back up his words with deeds. This particular braggart, Julian Row, is in town to court one of the local Spivey sisters, a close-knit but eccentric group of wealthy spinsters who own a sprawling ranch. When a traveling Mexican photographer is killed at Texana's trading post, unwanted police attention results. Then, a brush fire drives Texana and Clay away from their store and into a hotel in Marfa. When Row is killed before securing the hand of any Spivey, Texana launches her own investigation into the murders and dangerous events, skirting the possibility that drugs and drug trafficking may be the uniting factor. "A sure hand for detail and character add credence to a fine plot," commented Rex E. Klett in the Library Journal.
Death of the Last Villista brings a television film crew to town to make a documentary on a film about Pancho Villa that was made in the area forty years earlier. The older film, not of very high quality, was notable for its inclusion of Texana Jones as a child extra. An unsolved mystery still looms over the older production, however. A film crew member, who as a boy had served with the real Villa, was murdered on a river island between Texas and Mexico. The murderer was never found. When the television crew gets to work, violence attends the filming of the new documentary, including bombings and other potentially deadly harassment. The perpetrator seems to have a connection to the past, and almost everyone involved with the documentary becomes both suspect and potential victim. Texana is drawn into both the contemporary mystery and the murder from four decades prior, in part because of a newly discovered link between her mother and the murdered man. A Publishers Weekly writer commented that the best parts of the book "are the lyrical descriptions of the setting, the gritty Texas border country along the Pecos River." Stuart Miller, writing in Booklist, called the novel "a compelling story, beautifully written and not to be missed."
In Death of the River Master, Clay is arrested on trumped-up charges of the murder of Zanjiv Mehendru, head of the local office of the International Boundary and Water Commission. Mehendru had no shortage of enemies, brought on by his even-handed but strict regulation of access to water in the dry, dusty region. For unknown reasons, a drug-addled prostitute testifies that Clay was at the scene of the murder, but she is whisked away to a private rehabilitation clinic and made unavailable before her shoddy story can be refuted. Clay was, in fact, miles away from the murder scene. He has a tight alibi to prove it, but no one can get the arrogant and power-drunk Mexican magistrate in charge of the case to consider it. As Clay languishes in a miserable Mexican jail, Texana must find out why anyone would want to frame her husband while also making every effort to prove his innocence and free him. In addition, she has to uncover the real reason Mehendru was killed, and locate the killers before further harm can be done. A Publishers Weekly contributor observed that "Martin's evocation of this region is as clear as the desert air."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 1, 1996, Stuart Miller, review of Death of a Healing Woman, p. 325; December 15, 1997, review of Death of a Saint Maker, p. 686; February 1, 1999, Jack Helbig, review of Death of an Evangelista, p. 965; July, 2001, Stuart Miller, review of Death of the Last Villista, p. 1988.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 1996, review of Death of a Healing Woman, p. 1278; June 15, 2001, review of Death of the Last Villista, p. 836; June 1, 2003, review of Death of the River Master, p. 782.
Library Journal, April 1, 2000, Rex E. Klett, review of Death of a Myth Maker, p. 134.
Publishers Weekly, August 12, 1996, review of Death of a Healing Woman, p. 67; December 1, 1997, review of Death of a Saint Maker, p. 48; February 1, 1999, review of Death of an Evangelista, p. 79; February 28, 2000, review of Death of a Myth Maker, p. 66; July 2, 2001, review of Death of the Last Villista, p. 56; June 9, 2003, review of Death of the River Master, p. 40.
Books 'n' Bytes, http://www.booksnbytes.com/ (December 10, 2005), Harriet Klausner, review of Death of a Myth Maker; Harriet Klausner, review of Death of the Last Villista; Harriet Klausner, review of Death of the River Master.
Crescent Blues, http://www.crescentblues.com/ (December 10, 2005), Patricia White, review of Death of a Myth Maker.
Mystery Reader, http://www.theysteryreader.com/ (December 10, 2005), Jennifer Monahan Winberry, review of Death of a Myth Maker.
Readers Read, http://www.readersread.com/ (December 10, 2005), review of Death of the Last Villista.
Writers Write, http://www.writerswrite.com/ (December 10, 2005), review of Death of a Myth Maker; review of Death of an Evangelista.