Set in southwestern New Mexico, “Thin Men of Haddam” deals with the problems of Hispanics trying to make their way in an Anglo world. Orphaned as a child and reared by an Anglo family, Raphael Mendez lives in a nether world, neither de la raza nor Anglo. Having dropped out of graduate school after a squabble with his fellowship sponsors, he is foreman of the ranch of his childhood. Paired against Mendez in this striking first novel is his cousin, Manuelo —practically literature, broke, and the father of six starving children, and unable to find work. When Manuelo’s desperation pushes him to the other side of the law, Mendez must choose sides.
The novel is impressive for its crisp, clear depiction of local life in the area known as “Little Texas” and for its intense portrayal of the desperation of some Hispanics at the time.