BOOK: "Santa Fe: A Walk Through Time," by Kingsley Hammett (Gibbs Smith, 39.95)
TARGET AUDIENCE: Anyone who wants to get beyond the tourist trappings of this Southwestern mecca.
In crisply penned essays and evocative black-and-white photos, this book documents the absorbing history of the buildings, neighborhoods and people of one of America's most original cities. Both casual visitors and serious buffs of Santa Fe's past are likely to get a kick out of the stories. At El Fidel hotel, for example, a grand brick structure opened by three Lebanese immigrants in the 1920s, guests often requested rear rooms so they could watch hangings in the jailyard out back. The combination of text and visuals nicely details the evolution of the city's buildings. Some are sad, like the series showing how the Paris Theater, once the city's hottest night spot, ended up as a Banana Republic. Others -- such as a picture of the Spanish pueblo-style Anasazi hotel, blessed by holy men to rid it of negative energy when it was built -- are more poignant.
If it were not so big and weighty, this book would make a fine guide for a walking tour of the city. More likely, it will inspire everything from sighs to smiles by folks sitting around a coffee table. And a few of them will probably be moved to head out and see if the place is as fascinating as the book.
-- Gary Lee