It may have been the first novel written by anyone who ever called the Ozarks home. If so, then it’s almost certainly not what you would expect. First published in 1854, The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta, the Celebrated California Bandit would likely have taken its place in the dustbin of history alongside other dime novels of the nineteenth century if not for two “firsts” and a link with a twentieth-century American pop-cultural icon. The fictionalized tale of an actual Sonoran-born bandit in Mexican California is believed to be both the first novel penned by a Native American and the first published in California, two hefty firsts that are unlikely to make room for our humble regional claim in the author’s biographical entry anytime soon. Nor will his roots in the hills of Oklahoma and Arkansas earn billing over the assertion by some scholars that the novel inspired Johnston McCulley’s creation of the heroic Mexican character Zorro in 1919....
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