Author's 'wall of smoke' has a taste for murder

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Author Jim Wolf, 79, wrote the novel "Wall of Smoke," which is about Miguel Alonzo, a non-Navajo on the Navajo Nation police force who is coordinating an investigation of two deaths that occur at Twin Rivers Navajo Reservation.

Wolf has been writing since his retirement two years ago from his position as coordinator for the medical and social services at Socorro High School. This is his first published book.

"I learned there is a writing style, and second, that I can make a bigger point," Wolf said. "All of us has a wall of smoke that comes out. Making it live is important as an author."

Wolf was inspired to write a novel by his experience working on reservations for 26 years. Wolf worked on the Alamo Navajo reservation for 18 years, and served as director of community services with programs that dealt with adult education and business development.

For eight years on the Ramah Navajo reservation, Wolf was an assistant executive to the director and worked with federal agencies to support activities. Wolf helped with plans to develop and construct the elementary school at Ramah.

"I write to say something I feel strongly about — to say it and put it on the table to be shared," Wolf said. "It's a challenge to learn from mistakes and seek critics as my friends and see their perception of what I am doing."

Wolf's decision to write grew as he drew logic from his own ideas. As the idea grew, he was pulled into it.

"Everyone has baggage," he said.

People have their own problems and working on the reservation brought out points of conflict between individuals in the Native American culture and those invited onto the reservation, he said. The conflict between individuals representing each culture are reflected in the novel.

Wolf's favorite author is Michael Connelly, who writes cold case detective stories. Wolf said he had fun reading Connelly's novels for years, but now he tries to understand Connelly's structure and approach to see things differently, he said.

The illustration for the novel was created by artist Leon Miler. Miler said Wolf walked into Alamo Gallery and Gifts and asked for a painting of a hogan. Miler researched hogans, what they are made of and which way the door faces. Miler did a generic mountain background, and was trying to make the illustration fit the excerpts, he said.

"That's why I chose this type of hogan structure out of logs and stone," Miler said. "That's why I did the hogan the way I did."

Wolf grew up in Illinois, then in 1973, he and his wife moved to Ramah. In 1980, his family moved to Socorro.

Wolf said he wants to write another book about misogyny — hatred towards women. Wolf said there are certain structures in place because of the limitations and the destruction women face. He wants to create a message for that in his next novel.

Wolf will be signing his novel from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Dec. 1, at the Chamber of Commerce during the lighting of the luminarias event in Old Town plaza.

His book can be bought through www.Amazon.com or at the Alamo Gallery and Gifts for $15.

"Everyone's experience to that individual is a value to other people," Wolf said. "They may not think that, but I believe that life is not fruitless."