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The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta: The Celebrated California Bandit

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3.06  ·  Rating details ·  401 ratings  ·  48 reviews
An adventure tale about Mexicans rising up against US rule in California

An action packed blend of folk tale, romance, epic and myth, The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta tells the story of the Gold Rush-era bandit Joaquín Murieta, whose efforts to find fortune and happiness are thwarted by white settlers who murder his family and drive him off his land. In retaliatio
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Paperback, 208 pages
Published July 10th 2018 by Penguin Classics (first published 1854)
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Fabian
Oct 24, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If Quentin Tarantino, serious student of film, can create wickedly-awesome, violent cinema (Kill Bill Vols. I & II, Inglourious Basterds), then a writer who actually lived through it, through scenes of cold-blooded murder, can probably do much better. Joaquin Murieta, the Californian Hero, is, finally, an embodiment of the all-American rebel. The poster announces “FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS REWARD FOR JOAQUIN, DEAD OR ALIVE” & the bandit, in full public view, adds in pencil “I will give $10,000. Joaq ...more
Ana
original read: 1999

The novel describes the life of a legendary bandit named Joaquín Murieta who, once a dignified citizen of Mexico, becomes corrupt after traveling to California during the Gold Rush and suffering at the hands of the Americans he formerly admired.

Themes of transition, shifting identity and allegiance, revenge and rascism are all explored in this adventure novel. California, having recently been seized by the United States after the Mexican War, was an area where American and Me
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Trista
Dec 31, 2020 rated it liked it
An account of the life of Joaquin Murieta; a Mexican-Californian rebel around the mid 19th Century. This story (1854) is the first work to be published by a Native American (Cherokee) and the first to be published in California. Murieta's life as a rebel was the result of the inhumane treatment of his people in the early days of California during the gold rush. Tired and sickened by his plight to never have true rights to his property, to never have a say in politics that affected his life and t ...more
Danielle Apple
Mar 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Like a true reporter and editor, as was his job, Ridge collected evidence, talked to witnesses, and filled in a few blanks here and there to make this book about Joaquin Murieta, the celebrated California bandit. He later published further editions with more information to counteract the plagiarised pieces floating out there.

Joaquin tried to be an honorable person but at every turn, people (Americans, as they are truthfully called), drove him off his land, ransacked his belongings, ravaged his w
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Aaron
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
This book is historically important, but its prose style is trite, its episodic structure makes it tedious to read, and it's very racist. ...more
Jeff
Jan 27, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Ridge's only novel, the highly romanticized tale of Joaquin Murrieta is a cumbersome read.

Ridge's writing style is often convoluted and as far as western novels go, there are many older and contemporary pieces that are easier reads.

The value of the novel is that it was one of the first ever written by a Native American. Joaquin Murrieta was certainly one of California's most celebrated figured from the 1800s. The novel does examine race in a very interesting way, seeing that the author was
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Deranged Pegasus
The introduction at the start of the text is an intriguing tale all on its own as it tells of the basis behind the story and the life of the author. It is incredible to read of how many times he story was plagiarized and rewritten. I strongly recommend than anyone who reads his book reads all of the 50 page introduction.
The story itself is an unusual one. The 'hero' of the book is a bandit and murderer and yet is the one whom the reader is driven to look up too. The detail is beautifully done co
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Steve
Jun 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The novelization of the exploits of what was actually 5 different Joaquin's. CA's first novel, and the first American novel by an Indian (half Cherokee on his father's side - they were quiet wealthy, including owning slaves when in GA!).
He has his own prejudices, including the Chinese, who seem to get caught in the middle of all this.
Truly psychotic killer Three-Fingered Jack seems to have a blood lust for the Chinese - and a Bowie knife his favorite dispatcher of choice! The weird narrative o
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Tom Prezelski
Sep 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I ordered this to replace an older water-damaged copy. It is already an unusual and historically important book, being the first novel about California, the first published novel written by a Native American, and the first novel in English featuring a Mexican protagonist. Beyond these, this printing is interesting for two additional reasons.

First, the foreword is by Diana Gabaldon, which seems an odd choice unless you know her family background. I once worked with a lot of people who worked with
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Bryce Van Vleet
When I first rated this (4 stars) it was before we discussed it more in class. The text by itself is such a wonderful book. Yes, it's highly problematic. But my group mates and I all thought Rollin Ridge was using his own prejudice ironically, as a way to force his readers into understanding. Hearing more context of Rollin Ridge's life (including, among many horrific things, his support of slavery), the overall tone of this entertaining Western darkens and taints beyond repair.

But here's what I
...more
Donald
Sep 04, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up because it was mentioned in a book I just finished reading, "There There" by Tommy Orange. In that book, this one was mentioned as "The first novel by a Native person, and the first novel written in California...". I felt duty bound to pick this up!

This book takes place in the 1850's, in California. Joaquin gets whipped for stealing a horse he didn't steal, and the same mob that did that, killed his half brother. Well, he decides then and there to get revenge on that mob, and on
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Caroline
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating view into a historical period. The first novel published in California, in the 1850s, and the first to feature a Mexican-American hero. Also written by a Native American. Definitely reflective of the attitudes of the time period, and most interesting to read as a historical artifact. The story moves along and the series of introductions, both those written at the time the book was published and those written in the present for this edition, are fascinating.
Dori Sabourin
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 1_time
Ridge infers that there is nothing so dangerous in its consequences as injustice to individuals … a wrong done to one man is a wrong to society and to the world. This definitely was the result of the atrocities that Joaquin Murieta suffered at the hands of the Americans who at one time he revered. He became the notorious leader of a band of outlaws who sought revenge against Americans through pillage of monies, horse theft, assassination, and violence committed or threatened by the gang.
Spiros
Feb 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Tarantino fans
Shelves: california, bins
A fascinating contemporary account of California as it was settling, somewhat awkwardly, into statehood. If nothing else, Ridge gives you a good feel for how beautiful the place was, even amongst all the slaughter. I hadn't realized that Amador County wasn't an entity until this book was being written. ...more
Vanessa
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta takes place in California after the Mexican-American war and discusses the displacement of indigenous and Mexicans post the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo through the story of Joaquin Murieta, a Mexican, cowboy "Robin Hood". I really enjoyed this book, and it's ability to take you back in time and into the story. ...more
Jandro
Aug 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
I had long wanted to read this book and I finally did. It's a little hard to read as it does not have chapter breaks. But at the end, it was a satisfying read. I recommend it to fans of California History. ...more
Haley
Mar 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
Read for an American Renaissance Fiction MA class

I had a lot of fun with the plot. It felt like a good old-fashioned western. Definitely had problematic depictions of marginalized groups. The impact of this book on popular culture and California “history” is certainly something of note.
Linda
Aug 04, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Read this for sentimental reasons only as I remember my mother talking about this infamous legendary bandit.
Gabby
Mar 19, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
college textbook
Rainbow
Nov 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Red Dead Redemption but old school
Lilly
Dec 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okay. I don't love the sexism, racism, or unnecessary violence. But it's a really interesting book to think about analytically and to engage with in historical context. ...more
Kim
Read for Senior Thesis class, Spring 2021
Gina Marks
Mar 10, 2021 rated it liked it
An interesting piece of history, but not the most enjoyable read.
Travis
Feb 19, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This thing is a mess. it's episodic (no chapters) and despite its claim to accuracy (a convention of westerns) is outrageously romantic. has pretty shifting morals in terms of nationalism (pro Mexico! pro America! anti both!) and, because it's intended to inspire state pride for young california, creates and both apologizes for mass murder and a laughably bad serial killer (named three fingered jack). this is the b movie version of a genre that's already pretty hokey. more interesting to me is t ...more
Keith
Mar 01, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
(Required reading for a literature course)

"Joaquin Murieta" is a pulp adventure novel from the 1850s about a ruthless Mexican (or Chilean?) bandit whose band of marauders terrorizes Californians during the Gold Rush. Its author, John Rollin Ridge (aka Yellow Bird), was part Cherokee, and is considered to be the first American Indian novelist. He was also an apologist for slavery and supported the South during the Civil War. Although the book apparently helped popularize the myth of Joaquin Murie
...more
Diana
Jul 15, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Published in 1854 the "Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta" is said to be the forerunner of dime novels and of today's paperback westerns. The editor's preface states that he has left the original text intact except for those instances where it seemed necessary to simplify the more florid style used at that time. This is also apparently the first novel authored by a Native American, Yellow Bird, also known by the name of John Rollin Ridge.

Although the plot is quite unsophisticated and the lan
...more
Emily
May 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An entertaining look at California history through the eyes of a native reporting on the exploits of a renowned bandit. A romanticized and melodramatic look at a bloody siege and rough times in the gold rush days. One of the highlights of this book is Ridge's ode to Mount Shasta, a lengthy poem buried in the novel. It doesn't seem to quite fit, however, worth reading. This was required reading for me. Though, with the pulp fiction air and the slice of history it is, I quite enjoyed it. ...more
Ken Kenyon
Aug 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
John Rollin RIdge's Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta is a page turner. Ridge, who wrote the dime novel in 1854, breathes life into the legendary Joaquin and his times during the Gold Rush. His descriptions of nature, to include important historic settings, are impressive. The action is non-stop. One wants to know more about the reality and myth surrounding the notorious outlaw, who could be both cruel and surprisingly kind. ...more
Kelli
Apr 23, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I also had to read this novel for American Literature. i don't recommend it unless you are interested in the story of Joaquin Murieta. The only reason I actually read it (sorry, Profe) was because I had watched Zorro too many times and Antonio Banderas was just too hot not to make the character appealing. Shallow, yes, but at least I read something! ...more
Lindsey
This is the book that inspired the Zorro shows/films, and, while often over the top, it was a rollicking, old-fashioned adventure story. Much of it reminded me of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", especially as the ending approaches and you realize that, as much as you're cheering for the bandit, those sheriffs and their posses are closing in! ...more
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