A Dolores couple have published a new book that weaves together Southwest folklore, a mysterious murder and the criminal underworld of art theft.
“The Mystery of the Weeping Friar,” by DJ Park, was released this month by Dorrance Publishing Co. Inc.
DJ Park is the pen name for Doug and Jan Parker, who retired from law enforcement several years ago and settled in Dolores. They have a passion for storytelling and the cultures of Native American tribes.
“Our mysteries keep the readers guessing with a lot of twists and turns,” Doug Parker said.
In their sequel to “Gone Awry,” the Parkers tell a tale about a legendary religious figurine known as the Weeping Friar. Two FBI agents get swept up in a case that highlights the creativity and beauty of the art world, while also revealing its criminal aspects.
The story is not just about sinister people who will do anything to get they what they want, Parker says, but also of the dedicated law enforcement officers who are trying to put an end to their crimes.
The book idea germinated for some time. The couple traveled often to many New Mexico art galleries and Native American pueblos, developing a kinship with the people they met. The tradition of the carved santo figurine, a type of religious artwork made from cottonwood trees, piqued their interest.
“We began to understand more about the santo tradition and started building this story around it,” Parker said. “Writing the book has been really fun. It will take the readers on quite a journey.”
An undercurrent of the story is the growing commercialization of Native American art, and the problems and crimes that creates. The allure of New Mexico folk art is also one of the themes.
“The power of religious myth generates money value, and our characters get stuck in the middle of the craziness people have trying to acquire these pieces,” Parker said. “There is a legit art community, but there is also an underworld of unscrupulous art collectors and dealers.”
The husband and wife team are taking their passion for writing to the next level, and have almost finished a draft of a third mystery that takes place in Montezuma County. Their shared interest in mysteries, local culture, and their law enforcement backgrounds have grown into a strong writing partnership.
“Jan has a very creative mind and puts together the characters, and I do a lot of the word smithing,” Parker said. “We have gotten serious about it, and have created good stories about our part of the world we hope people will enjoy.”
“The Mystery of the Weeping Friar” is a 228-page paperback with a retail price of $17.00. Copies can be ordered at www.bookstore.dorrancepublishing.com