Lesley Poling-Kempes

Selected Works

The true story of remarkable women who left the security and comforts of genteel Victorian society and journeyed into the rugged outback of the American Southwest in search of a wider view of themselves and their world.
Fiction
“In the exquisite novel BONE HORSES Lesley Poling-Kempes grandly creates the landscape of New Mexico as a living character – vital, enduring and full of magic. As the geography of the American Southwest comes alive on the pages, the geography of the heart is revealed to be far more than muscle and bone. This is a story of what truly knits us together – family, history, enduring friendships - served up in luminous language and unforgettable story-telling.” Mary E. Mitchell PEN Award-winning author
"Canyon of Remembering is a memorable and exceptionally well crafted novel." -- The Midwest Book Review
History
“A writer’s acute, compelling history of one of America’s more endangered landscapes. Digging deeply into the history of a place, Poling-Kempes mines a rich vein of lore and myth.” Kirkus Reviews
Nonfiction
The definitive work about the Harvey Girls, Harvey Houses, and the Santa Fe Railway. Recently optioned by Atalaya Productions for a television series.
“Poling-Kempes is a skillful writer, smoothly dovetailing the human stories that make up the narrative of this pristine, peaceful, and appealing place. The author flat out knows how to tell a good story.” Richard Etulain
Co-author
"In her meticulous account, Lesley Poling-Kempes discusses the geophysical origins of this land of 'extremes and contrast,' analyzing the layered stone formations and matching them up with O'Keeffe's keen observations of red shales, sandshales and silt stones created 200 million years ago. . ." – Dore Ashton, Times Literary Supplement
2014 WILLA Award in Contemporary Fiction


"'Bone Horses' is a generational saga rife with secrets and unasked questions. Poling-Kempes deftly weaves into the narrative the fictional Agua Dulce's exquisite landscape and the history of the area's legendary wild mustangs." Candelora Versace, New Mexico Magazine


“Bone Horses” is a novel of large ambitions and sweep, with vivid characters and big American themes, written in crisp, sculptured prose.” Douglas Preston


“New Mexico is no place for a teacher with a quiet life. "Bone Horses" tells of Charlotte Lambert, a New York school teacher who comes to New Mexico to see what happened with her mother all those years ago, only to gain a mystery all her own when someone targets her for death. A riveting read and thriller with no shortage of twists and turns . . . .” The Midwest Book Review

Quick Links

Bone Horses

New York school teacher Charlotte Lambert is practical and predictable, and never allows life to veer off course. Until she comes to New Mexico. During one summer in Agua Dulce, a village haunted by a phantom herd of wild horses and where ravens embody the spirits of ancestors, Charlotte’s world is upended as she unearths the details of her mother’s forbidden love affair, chilling murder, and courageous last act of redemption. Pursued by a madman hell-bent on killing her, Charlotte finds shelter, romance, and her own misplaced soul at the desert camp of a surprisingly sophisticated cowboy, and learns how love in its myriad forms is the only path to lasting salvation.

"Bone Horses" is a fine mystery, with complex twists and turns. It is also a paean to the land and especially to its rare wild horses who symbolize all that is wonderful about our high desert country and all that needs our love and protection.” John Nichols

2014 WILLA Literary Award for Contemporary Fiction
Tony Hillerman Award for Best Fiction, 2013
Silver Medal, IPPY Book Awards, Mountain/​West
Southwest Books of the Year "Good Read" 2013


"I wondered if this story that appeared to include so many of my passions—the desert, horses, skulls, landscapes, and the peaks and valleys of human terrain—could possibly live up to my expectations. BONE HORSES did, and more." Dawn Wink, Story Circle Reviews

New York school teacher Charlotte Lambert is practical and predictable, and never allows life to veer off course. Until she comes to New Mexico. During one summer in Agua Dulce, a village haunted by a phantom herd of wild horses and where ravens embody the spirits of ancestors, Charlotte’s world is upended as she unearths the details of her mother’s forbidden love affair, chilling murder, and courageous last act of redemption. Pursued by a madman hell-bent on killing her, Charlotte finds shelter, romance, and her own misplaced soul at the desert camp of a surprisingly sophisticated cowboy, and learns how love in its myriad forms is the only path to lasting salvation.

“The landscape, an important part of this story, is beautifully described, while the characters are fully realized, quirky, sad, romantic and even one quite terrifying in his mental illness. This is a literary story, so there’s a lot to absorb. Take your time and savor it.” C.K. Crigger, WWA Roundup Magazine, 2014

"Poling-Kempes beautifully captures the landscape and spirit of New Mexico's high country, seamlessly blending mysticism and human longing to demonstrate that, indeed, home is where the heart is.” Bruce Dinges, Southwest Books of the Year, 2013

"Poling-Kempes has created an engaging plot and managed to clothe it in our time and culture in a way that conveys comforting and disturbing universal truths... the author doesn’t ignore the shadow side of rural New Mexican culture: 'Bone Horses' addresses violence, drugs and alcohol, long-held grudges and prejudices, and extremist religious views. Contemporary issues, including the threat of environmental pollution and the power of education to save lives, are also threaded into the narrative, sans moralizing...

"'Bone Horses' is extremely well-crafted, and its failings are few.” Hollis Walker, The Santa Fe New Mexican

Available in trade paperback and eBook format
La Alameda Press



“BONE HORSES unfolds like a desert sunrise—lifting from the Southwest landscape with a well-crafted storyline that keeps the reader on the path tracking romance, family legends, unsolved murders, buried bones, and elusive wild horses. I found myself drawn into the colorful and mysterious world of Agua Dulce much like I’m drawn into the vibrant and deceptively simple landscape of a Georgia O’Keeffe painting. And, like BONE HORSES’ heroine Charlotte, I found myself not wanting to leave.”
Page Lambert, "In Search of Kinship"