Monday, May 4, 2015

When a Treasure Hunting Legend Inspires Fiction

photo by Alan Erickson
I love the Southwest, and I love the romance and mystery behind tales of buried treasure. When researching lost treasures of the American Southwest, I came across the story of the Victorio Peak treasure, which has it all – a heretic Spanish priest, bandits, an Apache raider, and of course lots of gold. The Mad Monk’s Treasure was inspired by this tale.

Treasure Hunting Law

Many people are fascinated by tales of lost treasures. Some people even devote their lives to tracking down one or more historical mysteries, while others dabble in treasure hunting as a hobby. But who actually owns the treasure if someone does find it?

The Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 states that on public land (BLM lands, national parks, etc.), archaeological finds belong to the government. Qualified archaeologists can put in permits for excavation, and the finds can go to universities or museums, but the objects still belong to the government. On private land, a treasure would typically belong to the finder, if they are excavating with the land owner’s permission. However, state rules vary. Also, “treasure trove,” paper money or objects of gold or silver, must have been lost for at least a few decades, so it is unlikely that the original owner would come to reclaim it.

Of course, not everyone follows the law. I did some volunteer training with the BLM for people interested in monitoring archaeological sites. We were warned to never approach strangers digging in the desert, as they might be illegal treasure hunters and might be violent. Life can be just as exciting as fiction!

Inspired by Legend

In writing fiction, I took liberties with the Victorio Peak Treasure, which is still considered an unsolved mystery. According to the stories, the most likely location for the treasure is now within the restricted area of the White Sands Missile Range. I moved the treasure to public land, so my characters could actually find it. Not that the adventure is easy!

In The Mad Monk’s Treasure, quiet history professor Erin uncovers a clue to a lost treasure cave, but minutes after her discovery, a hit and run driver leaves her for dead. Is Drew, the handsome helicopter pilot who found her bleeding in a ditch, really a hero, or one of the enemy?

Erin won’t give up an important historical find without a fight. She and her best friend Camie head into the New Mexico wilderness to track the treasure. The wilderness holds its own dangers, from wild animals to even wilder weather. The pair races to find the treasure as sinister men hunt them. Just how far will Erin go to find the treasure and discover what she’s really made of?

“The story has it all—action, romance, danger, intrigue, lost treasure, not to mention a sizzling relationship....”

Read the first three chapters at www.krisbock.com.

The Mad Monk’s Treasure is book 1 in the Southwest Treasure Hunters series. The Dead Man’s Treasure is book 2. Each novel stands alone and is complete, with no cliffhangers. This series mixes action and adventure with “closed door” romance. The stories explore the Southwest, especially New Mexico.


Kris Bock writes novels of suspense and romance involving outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. In Counterfeits, stolen Rembrandt paintings bring danger to a small New Mexico town. Whispers in the Dark features archaeology and intrigue among ancient Southwest ruins. What We Found is a mystery with strong romantic elements about a young woman who finds a murder victim in the woods. The Mad Monk’s Treasure follows the hunt for a long-lost treasure in the New Mexico desert. In The Dead Man’s Treasure, estranged relatives compete to reach a buried treasure by following a series of complex clues. Read excerpts at www.krisbock.com or visit her Amazon page

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