The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta, the Celebrated California Bandit, is a unique book in many ways. In 1854, it was the first novel published in California, and it is also the first novel written by a Native American. Yellow Bird was the son and grandson of famous Cherokee chiefs, and he lived a vigorous and dangerous life as an Indian. But he was also a well-educated and literate man, known in the white man's world as John Rollin Ridge. Both a novelist and poet, Yellow Bird made his living in California as a newspaperman, ending his short life in Grass Valley as the editor of the Grass Valley National newspaper, of which he was a part owner. He was just forty when he died, but he had lived a fuller life than most. The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta was Yellow Bird's only novel, but it left an enduring mark. It not only sparked a number of knockoffs but also created the enduring myth of Joaquin Murieta. In addition, it was the genesis of the "dime novel" industry of the late nineteenth-century that persists even today as the paperback Westerns found in every bookstore, newsstand, and even supermarket. It was truly a first in that regard. But it is worth reading for more than those reasons -- it is a colorful and romantic story that fires the imagination of the reader, portraying in no uncertain terms what life was like in those times.
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