If all you know about the conquistadors is what you learned in school, or if you’re the type who finds an excursion into their times irresistible, then a new book entitled Conquistador Voices (Spruce Tree Press, Oct. 2015) may be for you.
In this two-volume set written for the general reader, author Kevin H. Siepel takes you on the expeditions of five European explorers or conquistadors, using - to a greater extent than usual in historical works - the writings of the expedition participants themselves, allowing them to tell their own version of events, and supplying connecting narrative in the manner of a film documentary. The book therefore reads not as a dry, standard history book, but rather as a series of cohesive, lively stories told by the men who were there.
As you open Volume I you are swept up in the four voyages of Christopher Columbus, along the way acquiring new insights into this complex man. You are then taken across the mountains of eastern Mexico with Hernán Cortés and his not-totally-willing army for the bloody conquest of the Aztec capital. Volume II first takes you high into the Andes with Francisco Pizarro as he and a handful of Spaniards bring down the mighty Inca empire. You are next invited to join the expedition of Pánfilo de Narváez, to be soon abandoned to the unspeakably harsh, years-long odyssey of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and his three companions through the deserts of Texas and Mexico. And finally you will join the expedition of Hernando de Soto on its four-year-long journey through the southeastern US. Before you’re finished, you’ll clamber aboard fragile, unseaworthy craft for two desperate escapes by sea.
The book, which claims to be a “one-stop Conquest summary for the general reader,” is notable not only for its nonstandard approach, but for the breadth of its coverage.
The author, who translated many of the original accounts himself, has resisted moralizing on these events, stating in his introduction that “value judgments have been left to the reader.”
Foreword Reviews has said of Conquistador Voices, "A nuanced view . . . . Clear and engaging with minimal biased commentary. Perfect for anyone looking for a more in-depth look at the Spanish conquistadors, and interested in them as three-dimensional and not just distant figures. . . . An interesting and wide-ranging look at a critical period in history." Publishers Weekly has commented, “Clearly a labor of love.”
Conquistador Voices is available in paperback or e-book format through Amazon and many other online sources. It may also be ordered through any bookstore worldwide.
Siepel is also the author of Rebel: The Life and Times of John Singleton Mosby (University of Nebraska Press), the first complete biography of the Confederacy’s celebrated guerrilla commander.
Kevin H. Siepel writes on personal, historical, and environmental themes. His benchmark Rebel: The Life and Times of John Singleton Mosby (St. Martin’s, Dacapo, University of Nebraska Press) has proven durable, as has his biography of a western New York state pioneer, which also broke new ground.
Of Rebel, the Wall Street Journal commented, “A memorable account of a memorable maverick,” Choice, “A skillful example of popular biography,” and Washington Post Book World, “The guerrilla warfare is recounted here skillfully.”
Siepel’s essays and articles have appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, Foreign Service Journal, Civil War, Wild West, two Chicken Soup for the Soul volumes, at www.wordworth.com, and elsewhere. One of his Monitor essays was translated into several languages and published worldwide by Readers Digest. Siepel speaks and teaches Spanish.