Exploring the art of prose


Celebrating SANTA FE NOIR

We’re delighted to share in the celebration of Santa Fe Noir, out today from Akashic Books, with this excerpt from our regular CRAFT contributor Candace Walsh! Walsh’s critical essays on Patricia Highsmith (here and here), Jess Walter, Carmen Maria Machado, and Zadie Smith have each been featured in our craft essay section, and her interview with Madeline ffitch is forthcoming.

Santa Fe Noir editor Ariel Gore also appears in CRAFT, in this hybrid interview focused on We Were Witches.

The following is excerpted from “The Sandbox Story,” by Candace Walsh, included in the anthology Santa Fe Noir, ed. Ariel Gore. Used with permission of the author and Akashic Books.


I work at home, but my office has its own entrance, even its own can. When I bought the place, the office was kitted out like an artist’s studio—easel, palette, the works. I saw a half-finished painting of an adobe wall below one of those iridescent salmon-streaked sunsets, the kind that makes tourists cream their panties. Go ahead, finish the picture. How many people get in car crashes while snapping sunset pictures, I don’t want to know.

I tossed that crap in the trash right after they handed me the keys. I know, I could have left it with the local school. Shoot me.

I had an hour to read the paper before my first client, Sam. I was soon shaking my head about a Good Samaritan—on his way to get married—who got killed helping some jackass without AAA change a tire on I-25.

How often do you accidentally find that you’ve veered onto the shoulder of the interstate when you’re driving somewhere? Never, right? So you’re gonna wait until there’s an El Camino stacked with ratty furniture and boxes, some guy sweating in the sun as he jacks it up, and that’s when you swerve to the right?

My office doorbell went off with the staccato of a vintage telephone. It needs replacing. I did get rid of the cast-iron green-chile door knocker that felt like palming a choad. Why is Sam so early?

I opened the door to a stranger. Cropped hair, windblown, dark. Tanned skin with constellations of dots across her nose and cheeks. A red mouth.

“You’re not Sam,” I said.

“No, I’m Delphine,” the woman said. “Delphine Hathaway.”

Hathaway: you see that name around here. Above the brokerage, the wine shop, and on the nicer mailboxes, on the most tucked-away cul-de-sacs. I’ve only been here a few years, but long enough to know the taxonomy.

The first time I visited Eldorado, I drove out to a dinner party at night. My hosts didn’t warn me that community covenants forbade (among many other things) streetlights, to protect night sky viewing, and that the street signs are affixed to their poles above headlight level. Although I never did find my friends’ house, I found Eldorado.

As I finally pulled over at the end of some dirt road, my headlights pierced the night, pressing their beams against a muscular darkness that pushed back harder. I walked out a few feet before sitting down in sandy dirt. Stars pulsed with an eerie tempo: dots and clusters, arcs and whorls.

When I returned in the daytime, I saw that these sand-colored houses sit on several acres each, oriented toward the sun and away from each other. Piñon trees, gold chamisa, and swarms of cholla cactus dot the land. Prickly pears mound and bristle below their fuchsia blooms. Wild grasses grow every which way: blue grama, sage, galleta. Mountain ranges hug the town; some round like bellies and breasts, others crepuscular, jagged.

The Hathaways bought one of the first houses here in 1972, on what used to be the old Simpson Ranch. They had an Irish amount of children, and all of them went back east to college, got married, and bought houses so tucked away here you could spend years without going down one of the long, groomed dirt roads from which their long, groomed gravel driveways branched. Except Delphine.

I have an ear for stupid gossip like that, overheard at the grocery store when matriarch Bonnie Hathaway was there selling Girl Scout cookies with her glossy, gap-toothed granddaughters.

“And how is Delphine?” asked some woman in ill-advised white capris.

“Delphine is Delphine,” Bonnie sighed with stately resignation. “We got a postcard from Ibiza last month. She’s been teaching flamenco dance on a cruise ship.”

“She was always… different,” White Capris tittered.



“Are you going to ask me in?” Delphine asked, stepping forward in a fawn-leather Cuban-heeled shoe.

“I don’t know you,” I said, as I opened the screen door.

“Don’t you know who I am?” she vamped with a throaty chuckle. “The black sheep of the Hathaway clan.” She headed toward the black leather Eames lounge chair, trailing tuberose.

“Nope,” I said. “Mine.” I pointed toward the sofa. “So when you’re on the cruise ship,” I asked, “do you always drop by the shrink’s without calling first?”

“The cruise ship,” she said. “Is that what Mother’s telling people these days?”

“What’s the truth?” I asked.

“Nope,” she said. “For that, I’ll have to pay you a pretty penny.” She smiled with a squint. “I will lose my mind staying here. I already know that. But I can delay it with a therapist. One I can walk to. Who doesn’t know my family. Which narrows it down to you.”

“You don’t drive?”

“I’d like to see you three times a week,” she said. “I’ll pay cash. Tomorrow at eleven works for me.”

I looked at my book, furrowing my brow as if I were trying to spot an empty slot in a sea of clients. But she was halfway out the door. A moment later, a car rumbled out of my driveway. I walked outside and watched the low, sun-sucking, gray-primed Trans Am drive too fast toward Impulveda Road, dust plume behind it like a squirrel tail. A family of quails skittered across the dirt road in their wake. Someone else was behind the wheel…. (read more)


—From “The Sandbox Story, by Candace Walsh



Akashic Books continues its award-winning series of original noir anthologies, launched in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir. Each book comprises all new stories, each one set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the respective city.

Brand-new stories by: Ana Castillo, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Byron F. Aspaas, Barbara Robidoux, Elizabeth Lee, Ana June, Israel Francisco Haros Lopez, Ariel Gore, Darryl Lorenzo Wellington, Candace Walsh, Hida Viloria, Cornelia Read, Miriam Sagan, James Reich, Kevin Atkinson, Katie Johnson, and Tomas Moniz.


The stories in this collection reflect a fundamental truth about this city: history depends on who’s telling it. Too often the story of Santa Fe has been told only by the conquerors and the tourism PR firms. In Santa Fe Noir, you will hear the voices of the others: locals and Native people, unemployed veterans and queer transplants, the homeless and the paroled-to-here. When I asked the contributors you’ll read in these pages if they had a Santa Fe story to tell, they invariably shrugged and said something to the effect of, “Oh, I’ve got a story all right. But it might not fit the image of Santa Fe you’re looking for.”

I said, “Try me.” They came back with the stories that never make the glossy tour brochures: the working class and the underground, the decolonized and the ever-haunted; the Santa Fe only we know… Conquered and reconquered, colonized and commodified, Santa Fe understands— from historical genocide to the murders of family members—the intimacy of violence.

ARIEL GORE is a Lambda Literary and Alternative Press award–winning editor and the author of eleven books, including The Hip Mama Survival Guide, Atlas of the Human Heart (a finalist for the Oregon Book Award), and Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness. Her memoir The End of Eve and her novel We Were Witches both won New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards. Her spell collection, Hexing the Patriarchy, is out now from Seal Press. She has taught at the Institute of American Indian Arts and the University of New Mexico and currently teaches online at literarykitchen.com.

CANDACE WALSH is a first-year PhD creative writing (fiction) student at Ohio University. She wrote Licking the Spoon: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Identity (Seal Press), a New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards winner. She most recently co-edited Greetings from Janeland (Cleis Press, 2017) and Dear John, I Love Jane (Seal Press, 2010), both Lambda Literary Finalists. Her short story “The Sandbox Story” appears in the fiction anthology Santa Fe Noir (Akashic Books). Her novel in progress, Cleave, was longlisted in the 2018 Stockholm Writers Festival’s First Pages Contest. Recent creative nonfiction essays have been published by Brevity, Pigeon PagesDoubleback Review, the New Limestone ReviewK’in Literary Journal, and Into. She’s published craft essays in CRAFT and the Fiction Writers Review, with an essay forthcoming in Descant. She teaches at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop, and proposed and moderated a 2019 AWP panel on shame and intersectionally marginalized female narrative unreliability. She is a fiction reader for the New Ohio Review.