Author of the Month

Dave DeWitt
[nov 2007]
Chosen by reviewer Beverly Rowe, MyShelf.Com

    I chose Dave DeWitt as the Author of the Month for November to celebrate the accomplishments of this versatile man. He is the author of more than 30 cookbooks, a couple of novels, many magazine articles, and has even produced videos about his passion...peppers. Dave has traveled extensively in research for his various enterprises, and you will no doubt find him at the National Fiery Foods & Barbeque Show in Albuquerque from February 29 - March 2, 2008, where the largest collection of hot and spicy products ever assembled in the U.S. will be on display.

I discovered Dave's talents when I obtained a copy of his historical fiction masterpiece, Avenging Victorio, an exciting novel of the Apache Insurgency in New Mexico in 1881. It tells about how Nana, the aged Apache, led a group of rag-tag Apaches in a revenge quest against General Edward Hatch and the U. S. Army. The Novel is based on well researched fact, and I couldn't put it down. I asked Dave about his writing is what he had to say:


Bev: Could you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you get started in writing?

Dave: I've been a writer and an overall media guy since grade school when I always seemed to get A's on term papers and essays. In high school I wrote a column for our newspaper and had short stories published in the literary magazine. In college at the University of Virginia I majored in English and took creative writing classes. After teaching college for three years and writing unpublished novels on the side, I worked in radio, TV, and advertising agencies, and wrote, produced, and voiced hundreds and hundreds of radio and TV commercials. After I moved to New Mexico in 1974, I decided to start a freelance writing career and specialized in articles about New Mexico food and travel. Well, you can't write about New Mexico food without covering chile peppers, so that was the start for "The Pope of Peppers," as the media calls me.


Bev: What is your favorite of all your cookbooks, and why do you like it best?

Dave: My favorite cookbook is The Whole Chile Pepper Book because it was my biggest seller and a breakthrough book that launched many new publishing ventures.


Bev: You have written many cookbooks, but also have written for newspapers, launched magazines, produced videos, and now have written a hard hitting historical novel. Which of these do you enjoy doing most, and why?

Dave: Most, I like researching a certain subject, including travel, writing a proposal, and celebrating when my agent, Scott Mendel, sells the book to a publisher.


Bev:...and least?

Dave: Least, I don't particularly enjoy being a print magazine editor anymore. After editing more than 100 issues of Chile Pepper and Fiery Foods & BBQ, I feel that I done more than enough in that medium.


Bev: According to your web page, you have traveled extensively in research for your cookbooks. Tell us about your research travels.

Dave: I'm a travel junkie. But not just for pleasure. I love to do on-site research and recipe collection. My wife and I have traveled extensively in Europe, Asia, Australia, South Africa, the Caribbean, Central America, and the U.S. Most fascinating culinary tour: India. Most fun culinary tours: tie, Australia and South Africa.


Bev: Your passion for the pepper really shows. I love your web site, and have gleaned a bunch of recipes that I want to try. Do you test most of the recipes yourself?

Dave: I am fortunate to have a part-time staff of recipe developers, including my wife, Mary Jane. Most of the recipes on the web site have been tested, but there are thousands of them in all my publications and so I can't test them all. However, I'm an excellent home cook and have edited thousands of recipes, so I can taste the dish by looking at the recipe, and often I make adjustments to the recipe.


Bev: I just finished reading Avenging Victorio, and I really enjoyed it. The characters came alive and the action felt like here and now. Tell me, how does an author go from being the celebrated cookbook author, the "Pope of Peppers," to writing a riveting western historical novel like Avenging Victorio?

Dave: I have this weird belief that a real writer should be able to write in any format and any genre, from advertising copy to songs to serious fiction. And in between, food history, historical fiction, humorous fiction, and gardening guides. I learned about the history of Avenging Victorio while researching a travel guide for New Mexico back in the days when they were rare. I loved the story and researched it for years, mostly in the libraries of the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University. After working on chile peppers and spicy foods for so many years, I decided to jump genres, finish the book, and find a publisher. Fortunately, all those things happened.


Bev: I really liked the way you told the story of the 1881 Apache insurgence from both the Indian's viewpoint and the U.S. Army's side. You effortlessly blend fact and fiction where readers don't know where fact stops and fiction starts in your book. Tell us about developing the idea for this book and the research aspect.

Dave: The story in the book is about 90 percent true history. The characters are mostly real people. The fiction is telling the story in a dramatic manner, and inventing believable descriptions, scenes, and dialog. U.S. military history was easy for me to research because I know something about it having had a military and Department of Defense father, and having taken military history in ROTC in college. The Apache history, legend, and lore was the biggest challenge but by far the most fascinating.


Bev: I know that this is a true story, and classified as fiction...your research is impeccable and characters realistic. You take readers on an adventure with cliffhangers in every chapter. Your pacing is great for the readers, but how did you manage to maintain the suspense and still have your readers cheering for both sides?

Dave: I strived to be objective and not worry about race, class, or being politically correct in today's terms. The historical story was in itself exciting, and I felt that by throwing in other contemporary historical events, I could lend authenticity to the story. About the style--I had no real editor because the publisher liked it so much he didn't want any changes. Essentially that meant copyediting only--a joy to a novelist. I attribute this to the years of developing the project--I had no deadline and it was fun to do, writing an adventure story with a moral or two.


Bev: Are treasure hunters still looking for that stash of gold bars? Have you ventured into treasure hunting?

Dave: Well, there have been several searches of Victorio Peak, which is on White Sands Missile Range land. Nothing has been found. I have not ventured into treasure hunting, but I love reading about it.


Bev: I only found reference to one other novel, The Mute Strategy, published in 1979. Have you written other novels?

Dave: The Mute Strategy was my attempt to capitalize on the enormous media publicity about the supposed cattle mutilations in New Mexico in the '70s. I was actually researching the mutilations and writing articles about the subject. I wrote the novel in six weeks, self-published it, found a local paperback book distributor, and it was on bookstands everywhere all over the state. It reached number 2 on the state bestseller list for a couple of weeks and then faded. Over the years I've written about seven novels, in many different fiction genres, two published.


Bev: What is your newest project? Do you plan to write more historical fiction?

Dave: My next project is a new book on pepper identification, gardening, and post-harvest preservation. It will be published in full color in 2009 by Timber Press of Portland, Oregon. Never say never, but I would have to find a really compelling story to write more historical fiction.


Bev: Do you have any other thoughts that you would like to share with your fans?

Dave: Since most of my fans are related to chile peppers, fiery foods, and barbecue, I'd like to first thank them for all their support, and then to point out that I'm back to a new book on peppers.


Bev: Thank you so much, Dave. Personally, I hope that you do find a really compelling story for another fiction book. While I love to cook, and do own some of your chile pepper books, I'm really hooked as a fan of your historical fiction after reading Avenging Victorio.

Browse Dave's web site for exciting articles about everything concerning peppers and the spicy food industry. You can find dozens of interesting recipes to try too. http://www.fiery-foodscom/dave/


Avenging Victorio
By Dave DeWitt

Rio Grande Books, an imprint of LPD Press -- September 15, 2007
ISBN: 1-890689-26-2

Buy a Copy

Read an excerpt


Review by Beverly J. Rowe,

After being chased out of Texas again, Victorio's luck has run out. The Apache chief and his band are cornered by the Mexican Colonel Terrazas and his soldiers. Ninety-three of the Apaches, including twenty-two women and children, are killed and sixty-three women and children taken captive.

Outraged by this massacre, the seventy-four year old Apache, Nana, is bent on revenge against the "white eyes." He gathers together a rag-tag band of guerillas to challenge the U. S. Army's Ninth Cavalry in New Mexico. It is clear to the U. S. government that the only solution is to capture or kill the elusive renegades, but these Apaches are as hard to capture as a wisp of smoke as they carry out raids against everyone in their path and manage to evade the Army.

This exciting novel is based on well researched historical fact, and includes characters from the history books. Lew Wallace, the territorial governor and acclaimed author of Ben Hur, is friends with Colonel Edward T. Hatch, who is in turmoil from the badgering of his superior officers, the press, politics, and now the Apaches. Billy the Kid is terrorizing the southern part of the territory, and other characters and their conflicts add to the hullabaloo. Dave DeWitt tells us how the Apaches changed forever when they were shuffled to reservations and of their resistance to losing their way of life. I especially enjoyed the details describing the traditions and customs of the Apache Indians, and their rituals as they venerate their gods.

DeWitt has a flair for writing about history and the photographs add to the realism of the characters. He heats up the action and puts your interest level in high gear. This powerful and absorbing story of the Apache rebellion in New Mexico in 1881 had me cheering for both sides of the conflict, since the Apaches and the Army are given equal voice in this unique novel that is one of the best I've read this year. New Mexico lore really comes alive, and the legend of Victorio's gold leaves you to ponder the real mystery of the treasure that may still be out there.



Books and Videos Published by Dave DeWitt

1979 - Discover New Mexico - Travel guide
1980 - The Mute Strategy - Novel
1984 - The Fiery Cusines - Cookbook with Nancy Gerlach
1985 - Fiery Cusines - Cookbook with Nancy Gerlach
1988 - Chile Peppers: A Select Bibliography of the Capsicums
1989 - Texas Monthly Guide to New Mexico - Travel Guide
1990 - The Whole Chile Pepper Book - Food History/Cookbook with Nancy Gerlach
1991 - Hot Spots - Spicy recipes from America's Most Celebrated Fiery Foods Restaurants - Cookbook
1992 - The Food Lover's Handbook to the Southwest - Travel and Cookbook with Mary Jane Wilan
1992 - Just North of the Border - Cookbook with Nancy Gerlach
1993 - The Pepper Garden - Gardening Guide with Paul Bosland
1993 - Callaloo, Calypso, and Carnival: The Cuisines of Trinidad and Tobago - Food and Travel with Mary
Jane Wilan
1993 - New Mexico (Lone Star Guides)
1993 - Hot & Spicy & Meatless with Mary Jane Wilan and Melissa Stock
1994 - Hot & Spicy & Meatless 2 - Cookbook with ary Jane Wilan and Melissa T. Stock
1894 - A World of Curries - Food History/Cookbook with Arthur Pais
1994 - Hot & Spicy Chili - Cookbook with Mary Jane Wilan and Melissa T. Stock
1995 - Hot & Spicy Latin Dishes - Cookbook with Mary Jane Wilan and Melissa T. Stock
1995 - The Habanero Cookbook - Cookbook with Nancy Gerlach
1995 - Fiery Appetizers - 70 Spicy Hot Hors D'Oeuvres with Nancy Gerlach
1995 - Hot & Spicy Southeast Asian Dishes - Cookbook with ary Jane Wiland and Melissa T. Stock
1995 - Heat Wave: The Best of Chile Pepper Magazine - Cookbook with Nancy Gerlach
1996 - Hot & Spicy Caribbean - Cookbook with Mary Jane Wilan and Melissa T. Stock
1996 - The Hot Sauce Bible - Food History/Cookbook with Chuck Evans
1996 - Hot & Spicy Mexican - Cookbook with Mary Jane Wilan and Melissa T. Stock
1996 - Sweet Heat: Spicy Desserts & More - Cookbook with Melissa T. Stock
1996 - Peppers of the World: An Identification Guide with Paul Bosland
1997 - Great Salsas by the Boss of Sauce - with W. C. Longacre
1997 - Pasta Exotica - Fresh Pastas With Vivid Color with Mary Jane Wilan
1997 - The Pepper Pantry: Habaneros - Cookbook with Nancy Gerlach
1997 - The Pepper Pantry : Chipotles - Cookbook with Chuck Evans
1997 - Great Bowls of Fire - Cookbook with W. C. Longacre
1997 - The Spicy Food Lover's Bible with Nancy Gerlach
1998 - Flavors of Africa - Cookbook with Mary Jane Wilan and Melissa T. Stock
1998 - The Food of Santa Fe - Cookbook with Nancy Gerlach
1998 - The Healing Power of Peppers - Health book/herbal recipes with Melissa T. Stock & Kellye Hunter
1999 - The Chile Pepper Encyclopedia - Reference/Cookbook
2000 - Peppers and People: Part One of Heat Up Your Life! - Video Documentary
2000 - From Seed to Salsa: Part Two of Heat Up Your Life! - Video Documentary
2000 - Hot Plates: Part Three of Heat Up Your Life! - Video Documentary
2000 - Meltdown - The Official Fiery Foods Show Cookbook and Chilehead Resourse Guide
2001 - Barbecue Inferno: Cooking with Chile Peppers on the Grill with Nancy Gerlach
2001 - Too Many Chiles - From Sowing to Savoring with Nancy Gerlach and Jeffrey Gerlach
2002 - The Chilehead Collection - Cookbook
2005 - The Spicy Food Lover's Bible - Food History/Cookbook with Nancy Gerlach
2006 - Authentic Recipes From Santa Fe with Nancy Gerlach and Eduardo Fuss
2007 - Da Vinci's Kitchen: A Secret History of Italian Cuisine - Food History/Cookbook

2007's Honorary List

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