Paul L. Tsompanas
A Fallen Star in the Days of Billy the Kid
About the Book - For Interview with Neal Steele, press
Juan Patrón lived through one of the bloodiest sagas of the American West known as the Lincoln County War in New Mexico during the late 1870s. Admired for his heroics, Patrón strived to tame a frontier plagued with violence, greed and illiteracy---first as a teacher, then an outlaw hunter and eventually as speaker of the territorial house at age twenty-five, the youngest person to fill that seat in New Mexico history.
With keen, well-researched detail and the skill of a master storyteller, the author leads us through Patrón’s life and perilous times, including that fatal moment at the hands of a Texas cowboy named Michael Maney, who outdrew him in a dramatic showdown inside a smoky saloon. Many believe that, had he lived, Juan Patrón very well could have become New Mexico’s first congressman when it entered the Union in 1912.
Soon after its release in July, 2012, the book won statewide recognition in New Mexico when the New Mexico Centennial Foundation featured it among new books that told of New Mexico’s march toward statehood, which it achieved in 1912.
“The author gives us a long-overdue account of Juan Patrón’s astonishing political career and rounds it out with an impeccably detailed presentation—undoubtedly the fullest ever written---of the mysterious manner of his death…This recognition of his achievements and premature death is long overdue, and I commend both it and its author to you.”
---Frederick Nolan, author of The West of Billy the Kid
“A biography of Juan B. Patrón has long been awaited by students of New Mexico’s inglorious Lincoln County War. Paul L.Tsompanas provides us a very readable account of his rise from a minor county official to Speaker of the House in Santa Fe and to his violent death at age thirty-two.”
---Marc Simmons, New Mexico historian and author of books on the Southwest
“Paul Tsompans takes the reader on a remarkable journey through the life of Juan Patrón in the New Mexico Territory, one of the last frontiers of the American West, where guns rather than law still settled disputes. While Patrón’s life and times are the threads that weave a tale of violence and tragedy, the roles of other lesser figures like the notorious Billy the Kid will compel the reader to keep turning the pages of this extraordinary book.”
---G. William Whitehurst, author and history professor, Old Dominion University
“This book gives us a very refreshing account of the most over-reported war on American soil. Free from the traditional Anglo myopia bias, the reader finally gets a fair account from the Hispanic perspective. And fair it is. We see a fine native son as a real leader—warts and all--- measured against his exact opposite, Billy the Kid. This is good writing and good history.
---Jim Bradshaw, retired archivist, Haley Memorial Library, Midland, Texas
“An excellent addition to anyone’s Billy the Kid library. Well done!
---Bob Boze Bell, artist, humorist and editor of True West Magazine
About The Author
Paul L. Tsompanas returned to writing after a long career as a senior congressional staff member. Before entering the world of politics, he spent ten years as an award winning reporter for New Mexico and California newspapers. Through the years, he also has contributed articles to regional and national magazines, including his 1962 cover story in Mechanix Illustrated that introduced parasailing to the world as a recreational activity.
From his first front page byline as a teen-aged cub reporter for the Sharon Herald in the steel mill area of Pennsylvania, Tsompanas hungered for a career in newspapering. After receiving his journalism degree at Penn State University, he took his first full time job as a reporter for the Clovis News-Journal in New Mexico in 1960. While there, he won a New Mexico Press Association award for his stories about a young mother and her nursing baby who were jailed because she couldn’t afford to pay a traffic fine.
In 1962, Tsompanas joined the San Diego Evening Tribune, a Copley newspaper, as a general assignment reporter. He later took over the city hall beat and eventually was assigned to Washington D. C. as a congressional correspondent for Copley News Service. In 1964, his exhaustive coverage of a longstanding dispute between upper and lower Colorado River basin states over water rights won a Copley Journalism Award.
After spending three years as a Washington correspondent, Tsompanas’ interest turned to politics. In 1967, he became chief of staff to a California congressman, and after serving in that capacity for eight years, he was appointed to the staff of the House Armed Services Committee. While on that staff, he scrutinized the annual military construction budget, a multi-billion-dollar bundle of construction projects at U.S. military bases worldwide, ranging from simple child care centers to complex ballistic missile silos.
A Navy veteran of two tours in the Western Pacific as a shipboard communications officer, Tsompanas also is a 1980 graduate of the National War College, having been the first congressional staff member to attend the nation’s most senior war college. During his studies, he wrote a highly regarded research paper on Soviet strategic access in the Third World.
Tsompanas and his wife Mary Ann divide their time between their summer retreat in the small Potomac riverfront town of Colonial Beach, Virginia, and their home in Tarpon Springs, Florida.
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