Learn historic tales from our area in Kate Ruland-Thorne’s new book
Thank you to column readers and to the authors, photographers, illustrators and others who have shared their creative process. There is incredible talent here, and it has been a pleasure to shine a light on our burgeoning local literature scene. After three years, however, this is the final installment of Write or Wrong. Inspiration may be infinite, but time and focus are finite. All the best,
— Laurena Mayne Davis
In “Historic Tales of Colorado’s Grand Valley: Heroes, Heroines, Hucksters and Hooligans,” author Kate Ruland-Thorne portrays some of the more colorful characters to call western Colorado home.
The History Press recently released the book through its American Chronicles series.
Ruland-Thorne, of Grand Junction, has written 10 regional history books in her 30-year journalism career. She formerly was editor of Sedona Red Rock News, editor of Sedona Magazine and columnist for Art-Talk in Arizona.
She has been a stringer for publications including the Denver Post, Directions Magazine, Southwest Art, Arizona Highways, Wild West and Grand Valley Magazine.
Learn about the talented author at rulandthorne.com.
Laurena Mayne Davis: In the Acknowledgments, you thank former Grand Valley Magazine Publisher Krystyn Hartman for encouraging you to publish articles you had written for the magazine. How much of the book was previously published?
Kate Ruland-Thorne: Four stories were not previously published: “The Outrage of Josephine Meeker”; “Cowboy Karma”; “Cesspools, Alkali and Intimidation: Grand Junction’s Teller Institute”; and “On a Roll: The History of Colorado Mesa University.”
Davis: Not all of the content is confined to the Grand Valley as most people know it. There are stories set in Vernal, Utah, and Glenwood Springs, for example. Even the cover is from Cimarron. How are you defining the Grand Valley?
Ruland-Thorne: Good question. The Western Slope would be more accurate but “Grand Valley” makes for a better title. The cover photo was picked by the publisher as representative of the area’s stories.
Davis: Many of the chapters start with compelling scenes that launch readers right into the action. Was that a choice for this book, in particular, or how you prefer to write, in general?
Ruland-Thorne: For every story I’ve written over the years, I spend a lot of time deciding what grabbed me the most about this story and then ask myself if it will also grab my reader and keep them reading. Usually, my writing flows easily from there.
Davis: The stories are augmented with many of your interviews. How many people did you interview for the book?
Ruland-Thorne: Approximately 25 people overall, plus a great deal of research in the Loyd Files archives at the Museum, particularly the oral histories section.
Davis: You feature a range of more widely known historical figures and some who likely will be new to readers. How did you decide whom to include?
Ruland-Thorne: Initially, I look for someone or something intriguing about a town on the Western Slope. I use memoirs about the area, many self-published. I collect these, by the way, and have quite a library of them. Or I meet someone whose family goes back generations here. Rusty Brouse was one and Bobby Fuoco was another. She grew up in De Beque and shared stories with me while we walked our dogs. Other times I might be researching something for an assigned article and an unexpected character pops up who captures my interest. Charlie Glass, Florence Fuller and Diamond Jack are examples.
Davis: What was your favorite find for the book?
Ruland-Thorne: I’d say the above mentioned three just because no one had ever really heard about them, and they were fascinating characters.
Davis: What new connections did you form with your Grand Junction home as a result of your research?
Ruland-Thorne: Mainly with the Museums of Western Colorado, which is an invaluable resource I can’t praise enough.
Davis: You have another book coming out soon that you’ve worked on for many years. What’s the story behind that one?
Ruland-Thorne: Thank you for asking. Its title is “Courage on the Nile” and it is being published by Paragon Press in California. It will be released in the next week or two as an e-book, and if it does well in that format, then as a hard back.
It began as an interview with a celebrated Hollywood couple who retired to Sedona, Arizona, in the 1980s, where I lived and was publisher of the Red Rock News at the time. We became close friends and over the years I learned that their real story was what took place before their move to Hollywood, stories I tape-recorded over the next 20 years.
Aliza and Alan Caillou had participated in, or were witnesses to, some of the most pivotal moments in history. Aliza grew up in Palestine during the British Mandate and as a teenager joined the youth arm of the illegal Haganah, helping sneak Jewish refugees into the country and smuggling firearms. Alan was a British policeman stationed in Palestine when they met and later married.
At the outbreak of World War II they both joined Britain’s Eighth Army, Alan in MI6 espionage, and Aliza in the war department. At one point during the war Aliza hitchhiked alone 1,000 miles across Africa. After the war, they lived 13 years in Africa, experiencing witch doctors, native uprisings and man-eating lions.
It took seven years for me to write their story. I’ve never re-written a story more often than this one, but finally got it right. I’m very proud of the outcome.
Davis: What’s next for you?
Ruland-Thorne: Currently I’m writing articles for St. Mary’s Live Well magazine — I wrote eight stories for the current issue — and have been assigned articles for KA International, an airline magazine. I’m also working on a book about mountain man, Joseph Walker.