June A. Reynolds’ Desert Report is the third in the author’s series about the Arizona desert. Comprised of poetry, short stories, articles and photography, the book trades mainly in the mystique of Arizona, present and past.
With Reynolds’ imaginative writing, the past easily overlays the present. For instance, a group of modern-day hikers are fooled by the same mirage that fooled “Spanish priests and conquistadores” who tramped through that country. The closer they tried to approach, the further the pools of water receded before them.
Reynolds’ fictional stories include a piece on Cochise, interweaving stories about John Wayne’s movies and the life of an old-time cowboy, the shenanigans of a couple of construction workers, a boy’s first hunting trip, and the mentally ill owner of Siamese cats.
Among the nonfiction works in Desert Report are lists of activities at border crossings, a description of a press conference at a solar farm, a profile of the cactus wren, and a short biography of Ettore DeGrazia, an artist and “cultural hero of the southwest.” This last includes photos of DeGrazia’s artwork and is easily the most interesting of the entries. Reynolds describes how DeGrazia in 1933 “hitched a ride to the University of Arizona in Tucson… and supported himself by planting trees… and leading a band at night.” Although DeGrazia later interned with Diego Rivero, he had trouble, Reynolds indicates, in promoting his art, so “the only thing to do was to open a studio and keep working.”
Reynolds’ poems are descriptive but unmemorable, often sacrificing impact to rhyme. (“The ravens join the curse./[…] Sour notes are nature’s worse.) And some of her stories appear to have been written hastily. “Murderous Visions,” about the Siamese cats, particularly lacks focus.
Reynolds, however, is skilled at projecting a sense of place and the mystique of the old West, and for this reason, Desert Report may appeal to tourists and collectors of Arizona memorabilia, if not to general readers.
Also available as an ebook.