People of Darkness (1980)

People of Darkness (1980)


In French, the term cul-de-sac literally means "bottom of the bag." In English it usually refers to a dead-end street, but can also be applied to any pathway, for example a rock crevice, that only has one opening and is closed at the other end.

volcanic tuff

A type of sedimentary rock that is characterized by its layered, grainy appearance. Tuff consists of a mix of fine-grained rock and condensed volcanic ash that have been meshed and pressed together after a volcanic eruption. Tuff often appears porous, and is subject to changes in formation over time as a result of exposure to wind, water, or ice.

Note that tuff is the correct spelling of this type of rock, although in the novel People of Darkness it is spelled volcanic tuft.

geological formation

In the study and mapping of the earth's surface, geologists classify a geological formation as any basic unit of rock that stands out from its surroundings. A geological formation, therefore, can be small or very large, but must be distinct in appearance as well as substantial enough to chart on a map. Geological formations are often given names based on their location and their dominant rock type. For example, the El Malpais sandstone bluffs are a unique formation of sandstone, located in the El Malpais National Monument near Grants, New Mexico.

ghost hole

According to the Navajo belief system, which involves strict taboos regarding death, if a person dies inside a dwelling place rather than outside in an open space, the structure becomes contaminated and must be abandoned. When someone dies inside a hogan, it is also believed that their spirit (or chindi) may get trapped within the walls of the house. In order to release the chindi, a hole is created in the northern wall of the hogan. After the ghost hole (also known as the corpse hole) is punched in the northern wall, the body of the dead may then be taken out of the structure to be buried or left in the hogan if the ground is too frozen to dig a grave. The hogan is then rendered uninhabitable, and is either left to decay, or is burned down. If the hogan is left abandoned, all openings other than the corpse hole are closed in order to warn others that the dwelling has been contaminated by death.


In architecture, a lintel refers to the horizontal stone slab or wooden beam that is placed on top of the two vertical supports of a door, an entryway, or a gate. A lintel can be a structural feature or a decorative one, and often functions as both.

In the traditional hogan, a common dwelling structure for Navajo peoples in the U.S. Southwest, a heavy blanket is often hung from the wood lintel log to form a door that can keep the inside warm in cold weather, but can also be easily removed as necessary.


A rock formation in which the top part protrudes forward horizontally to hang over the vertical parts of the rock face.

Portland, Oregon

The largest city in the U.S. state of Oregon, the southernmost state in the Pacific Northwest region. Portland is situated close to the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers, with the Willamette River passing through the city as it flows north, the city is famous for the many historical and modern bridges that cross the river. The area surrounding Portland was inhabited by Upper Chinook Native peoples for centuries before the arrival of white settlers in the 1830s. The city was founded in 1845 and named after one of its founder’s hometown of Portland, Maine. Its strategic location at the crossroads of major pioneer routes and its access by river to the Pacific Ocean allowed the settlement to develop as a port town and a center for culture and commerce. Today, Portland is known for its high-tech industry, public parks, liberal politics, and many small breweries and coffee shops that give the city its unique local character.

Seattle, Washington

The largest city in the U.S. state of Washington and in the greater region of the Pacific Northwest. The Seattle area was inhabited by Native peoples for thousands of years before European settlers arrived in the late 1700s. In 1851, a town was established at the mouth of the Duwamish River, which was later named Seattle after the Native American chief Sealth, with whom the settlers had a good neighborly relationship. The town's early economy relied on timber and with the gold rush of the late 1800s the city grew substantially. The 20th century brought about the development of industry, transportation, and commerce, and today Seattle is known especially for its aircraft and high-tech industries. In recent decades it has become one of the most densely populated and affluent American cities. Seattle is known for its unique layout on hills interspersed by water (including Puget Sound, Elliot Bay, and various lakes), and for its oceanic climate, characterized by cool, cloudy, and often rainy weather.

Rio Puerco River, New Mexico

A western tributary of the Rio Grande River that passes through the central part of the state of New Mexico. The Rio Puerco River originates in the Nacimiento Mountains in the Santa Fe National Forest and flows south 230 miles to meet the Rio Grande River about 20 miles south of Belen. The areas surrounding the river were once populated by ancient Pueblo peoples, and later by Native American tribes such as the Navajo and the Apache, who were pushed away by the U.S. army when the government took over the region in the 1860s. Hispano and white settlers moved into the irrigable lands along the river but overgrazing, erosion, and flash flooding led to changes in the landscape, which drove people away. Today, most of the lands around the river are uninhabitable, the river itself is dry for much of the year and subject to flooding during the rainy seasons.

Rio Grande Valley, New Mexico

The Rio Grande is the largest river flowing through the state of New Mexico, and the valley surrounding it has provided much-needed water and sustenance to the various cultures that have occupied the region over the millennia. The greater Rio Grande Basin stretches over 1,500 miles from southern Colorado in the north to southern Texas and the Gulf of Mexico in the south. The Middle Rio Grande Valley refers specifically to the segment of the river that passes through central New Mexico: from Cochiti Pueblo in the north, through the metropolitan area of Albuquerque, to San Marcial in the south. When looking at the Albuquerque area, the high desert river valley lies 5,000 feet between the Sandia Mountains in the east, and the rising mesas just west of the city.


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