Interview with Author Steven W. Kohlhagen

Published December 2, 2013 by glgiles



“Steve Kohlhagen knows the West, knows his history, and combines them into a fast-paced, irresistible story!” Where They Bury You [Sunstone Press] –

Kohlhagen is a former, now retired, Economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, a retired Wall Street investment banker, and is on several corporate boards, most recently elected to the board of Freddie Mac. While at Berkeley he authored many economics publications, and he and his wife Gale jointly published the murder mystery “Tiger Found” under their pen name Steven Gale… in 2008. Kohlhagen was inspired to write his latest book “Where They Bury You” after reading Hampton Sides’ “Blood and Thunder,” a non-fiction history of Kit Carson and the West. Sides’ reporting of the factual murder of Marshal Joseph Cummings on August 18, 1863 led Kohlhagen to conduct further research on Carson and Cummings, including at the National Archives. He also pulled from his own knowledge of the West, as the writer divides his time between the New Mexico-Colorado border high in the San Juan Mountains and Charleston, South Carolina” (

GL: Does living in diverse locations aid you in your writing?

SWK: Living in the summers in the San Juan Mountains on the Colorado, New Mexico border is a major help in my locational research for both the historical context and the Western locations for “Where They Bury You” and the sequel in progress. Maybe living half the year in different locations keeps me flexible and creative?

GL: Good answer! Please tell readers about the importance of the West in your “Where They Bury You.”

SWK: I love the West. I feel at home there. The history and cultures of Native Americans in the West resonate deeply in my sense of self. Germans have always been fascinated by the American West. Maybe my heritage coming from German immigrants and then living most of my youth in the high desert came together to create this within me.

GL: What’s the synopsis of “Where They Bury You,” and why were you inspired to write it?

SWK: In August 1863, during Kit Carson’s roundup of the Navajo, Santa Fe’s Provost Marshal, Major Joseph Cummings, is found dead in an arroyo near what is now the Hubbell Trading Post in Ganado, Arizona. The murder, as well the roughly million of today’s dollars in cash and belongings in his saddlebags, is historically factual. Carson’s explanation that he was shot by a lone Indian, which, even today, can be found in the U.S. Army Archives, is implausible.

Who did kill Carson’s “brave and lamented” Cummings? The answer is revealed in this tale of a group of con artists operating in 1861–1863 in the New Mexico and Arizona Territories. As a matter of historical fact, millions of today’s dollars were embezzled from the Army, the Church, and the New Mexico Territory during this time. In this fictionalized version, the group includes the aide de camp of the Territories’ Commanding General of the Union Army, a poker dealer with a checkered past in love with one of her co-conspirators, and the Provost Marshal of Santa Fe. It is an epic tale of murder and mystery, of staggering thefts, of love and deceit.
Both a Western and a Civil War novel, this murder mystery occurs in and among Cochise’s Chiricahua Apache Wars, the Navajo depredations and wars, Indian Agent Kit Carson’s return to action from retirement, and the Civil War. The story follows the con artists, some historical, some fictional, during their poker games, scams, love affairs, and bank robberies, right into that arroyo deep in the heart of Navajo country.

I was inspired to write this when I came across Kit Carson’s explanation of the murder in Hampton Sides’ wonderful history, “Blood and Thunder.” My instant reaction was, “There’s no way he was murdered that way.” And the more I researched the actual figures the more convinced I became of Carson’s error and the more fascinating the set of plausible explanations and the story became.

GL: You were recently on ABC news. What topics did you discuss? Where can readers view it?

SWK: It was a very short interview, actually. Mostly we talked about the answers to the questions above. Here’s the link:

GL: Is “Where They Bury You” a departure from what you’ve written before?

SWK: Absolutely. My wife Gale and I co-wrote a Charleston missing persons mystery under the pen name Steven Gale called “Tiger Found,” and I wrote theoretical Economics while a professor at Berkeley, but this is my first solo novel and work of historical fiction.

GL: Where can readers pick up a copy?

SWK: It’s available on Amazon and can be ordered from Barnes and Noble.

GL: Which social networking sites are you on?

SWK: Facebook: Steven W. Kohlhagen SWK Artists LLC and Steven W Kohlhagen
Twitter: @StevenKohlhagen
LinkedIn: Steve Kohlhagen Independent Publishing
Goodreads: Steven W. Kohlhagen

GL: Do you believe in sharing the same content on all sites, or do you think that it’s better to tailor the content for each one?

SWK: I try to tailor or as best I can.

GL: What’s on the horizon for 2014?

SWK: I have completed well over half the sequel and it takes place in 1863-1877 in Colorado, Oregon, and Wyoming. I’m enjoying watching the characters write this new story immensely. Possible title: “Chief of Thieves.” Would love feedback on that possible title. “Where They Dug You Up” wasn’t working for me!

GL: Now, that’s funny! Yes, “Chief of Thieves” might be a better title for you! Though “Where They Dug You Up” might work for one of my vamp novels. Readers, please give Steven your thoughts as well, and be sure to visit him at:

Truly my pleasure, Steven!


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