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by Linda Gorski

All you HCC Newsletter readers should know by now that my favorite place in the world is the Big Bend National Park.  I've written reviews highlighting several books about the place and we have certainly published numerous trip reports about paddling the Rio Grande in that area. 

Recently I reviewed a book by Laurence Parent entitled Death in the Big Bend which is a compilation of 18 TRUE stories about how people have gotten into big  trouble hiking, camping and paddling in that remote area.   Well, here's a review of a FICTION book set in the Big Bend.  This time it's a murder-mystery that takes place in what I think is the most beautiful canyon on the Rio Grande, Mariscal Canyon.  Anyone who has paddled Mariscal will be totally familiar with the opening scenes in the book.  And if you love Big Bend Ranch State Park, you're in for another treat because parts of the book are also set there. 

Here's what has to say about The Mariscal Canyon Dead:
Lee Phillips, a pistol toting cowboy-historian stumbles on five vulture-eaten bodies and a dangerous and deadly mystery in a remote canyon of Big Bend National Park, Texas. The canyon harbors two deadly secrets. In an abandoned mine U.S. and Mexican conspirators have hidden a hoard of refined mercury--enough to poison and murder hundreds of thousand of innocents. Nearby, the Ark of the Covenant rests in a camouflaged adobe vault--placed there by the 7 Guardians of this holiest of holy relics. Mariscal is a killing ground and Lee becomes a target. Lee must use all his academic training, his outdoorsman skills and his marksmanship to solve the twin mysteries before the conspirators kill him or commit heinous crimes. This "page turner" is a must read.
The Ark of the Covenant??  In the Big Bend???  Ohhh yeah -- Indiana Jones has nothing on Lee Phillips, the hero of this tall tale.    I've decided that the author of The Mariscal Canyon Dead, Phil Hewitt has a wonderful, vivid imagination that he lets run wild in this book.  He's evidently an avid kayaker and I'd love to go on a trip with him and listen to his stories around the campfire.  Once you read this book you'll understand why.  His biographical notes even intrigue me...
Hewitt and his wife Linda Gravatti live in Austin, Texas.They have traveled extensively in Texas, New Mexico, Mexico and the deep South. He has written or edited numerous non-fiction works and is currently employed by a "major state parks system." Mariscal is his first work of fiction. It is set in Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park where the protagonist is the first "Writer in Residence." Phil and Linda enjoy kayaking and walking on the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico in Texas, Alabama, Florida and Mexico. He is an avid, but mostly inept kayak fisherman. Phil grew up in Memphis where he actually met Elvis (who bought a Sunday paper from Phil for $5 while driving his purple Cadillac). Phil holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Texas at Austin and has a CDL (Commercial Drivers License--just in case he needs honest work). A truck driver mystery/detective series is planned.
So put a fire in the fireplace, curl up in a big comfy chair and enjoy this book.  As said, this is a page-turner.   You can certainly borrow the book from my growing library of Big Bend related books.  Just email me at

Linda Gorski paddling into Marsical Canyon