Stallion Gate

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Sergeant Joe Pena, incarcerated at Leavenworth for sleeping with an officer’s wife, suddenly is released from solitary confinement to serve as driver, bodyguard, and go-between with the Indians for physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, whom Pena served as a guide many years before, as a boy of ten. Pena’s release has been engineered by Captain Augustino, a scheming army-intelligence officer who intends to use the Pueblo Indian as an informer in order to prove Oppenheimer’s complicity with the Communists.

Pena, a folk hero in the making, is a man between two worlds. Born and reared in the Santiago Pueblo near Los Alamos, he had run off at fifteen and joined a circus. Irresistible to women, yet always the inscrutable Indian, he manages to juggle his loyalties to Oppenheimer, his obligations to Augustino, his attraction to the German mathematician, Anna Weiss, and his own personal ambitions--all in the shadow of high explosives and the first atomic bomb.

The tension and dangers which accompanied the Manhattan Project are clearly described through experiences of Pena as he moves from one escapade to another: hauling radioactive materials, working with high explosives, joining an Indian ceremony to protect Indian friends, and loving forbidden women.

STALLION GATE is a fast-paced, absorbing novel because of its remarkable hero. Though the espionage story line is not as fully developed as it might have been, the author skillfully balances his hero’s complex survival techniques against the backdrop of New Mexico’s desert region and an event which was destined to change the world forever.