At 32 years old, John LeMay has 14 books published and more on the way. Many of his books are rich with the history of Southeastern New Mexico. But LeMay seems to be styling himself more as a folklorist. He quotes J. Frank Dobie, “I’m too fond of facts for a fictionist, and too fond of stories for a historian.”
“I have a biography of Ash Upson, Roswell’s first postmaster,” LeMay said. “University Press is reviewing it. I’ve gotten some favorable peer reviews on it from Morgan Nelson and Dr. Robert J. Stahl.”
The first of his historical books, “Roswell, Images of America,” is now 10 years old.
“I was 22 when I wrote it,” he said. “I was 23 when it came out in December of 2008. The cover picture is the Pecos Valley Register. I was in college when the book came out.”
His most recent book and another book he’s preparing will offer a deeper look into area historical figures and stories.
“The last local history book I did,” LeMay said, “was ‘Hidden History of Southeast New Mexico with Donna Blake Birchell.’ It’s made up of chapters that we couldn’t get to fit in other books, so it’s more of an anthology.
“Another co-author and I are considering a sequel to one of the more famous Southeastern New Mexico history books. The researcher who did the original book left behind a lot of material. This will be a continuation.”
Working with the archives at the Historical Society for Southeastern New Mexico, he’s also publishing a local rancher’s autobiography.
“Here at the archives, we have a historical autobiography by a sheep rancher named James Miller,” LeMay said. “It was published privately by the family. We’ve entered into an agreement with the family. They will allow the historical society to publish it and collect the royalties and the sales from it. They get final say about anything we add to the book. I did some annotations giving it some historical context and background details on the people James Miller talked about. We’re hoping to have it out by Christmas.”
LeMay is excited about a cleaning project that’s sure to please area history buffs.
“The project I’m working on now is this historic book fair that’s coming up Saturday, Sept. 8,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of books. We’re selling the duplicates. We keep the first editions and books signed by the author.”
LeMay said it’s important for donors to know their options when donating to the museum.
“Whenever something is donated,” he said, “there are boxes that the donor checks. One of those says ‘unconditional donation,’ that means we can sell it, we can throw it away, or we can put it on display. It’s important when someone makes a donation that they check the right box.”
His reputation is solidly established and LeMay is getting to be in high demand. “Morgan Nelson is on me to write a book about the Pecos River,” he said. “It’s a bit daunting.”
His book about Ash Upson inspired an article, The Man Who Invented Billy The Kid. It was published in True West Magazine’s Sept. 11, 2017 issue.
“Upson was Pat Garret’s ghostwriter on his book about Billy The Kid,” LeMay said. “Upson knew everyone who was someone in New Mexico.”
History isn’t his only passion. He’s had quite a response to his books about one of his more personal passions.
“I found some unexpected success,” he said, “doing nonfiction books on the making of the Japanese Godzilla movies. Those bring in more sales than anything I’ve ever done before. I wrote a book on the movies that they never made, called ‘The Lost Films.’ There are Godzilla scripts that they wrote but never made, in Japan. I should have called it ‘The Lost Scripts.’ It’s my best seller.”
LeMay loves writing and sharing what he’s learned.
“Being a writer is probably the best hobby you can have,” he said. “It doesn’t cost anything to put pen to paper or type. I’ve helped other authors learn how to self-publish. A lot of authors get gypped when they want to self-publish and they go to vanity houses.”
LeMay sees no end in sight where his writing is concerned.
“There will always be another book until the day I die,” he said.
He’s stretching his creativity into new media.
“I was pleased,” LeMay said, “to do a very short documentary on the history of Roswell with Donovan Fulkerson and Relicwood Media. It’s 15 minutes long. It’s called ‘A Brief Introduction on the History of Roswell, New Mexico.’ You can watch it upstairs in the museum.”
Thanks to that project, he’s been bitten by the film bug.
“A few years ago they filmed a web series called ‘Tailed,’” he said. “I would love to do a similar web series. I want to do a comedy with the storyline based around gym people.”
A new graduate of Leadership Roswell, LeMay was elected president of his class.
“Being president of the class of 2018,” he said, “I have the good fortune to go through the class again and help out. We’ve had more applicants this year than in any year previous. I’m especially grateful for the connections I made and friendships I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t taken the class.”
John LeMay has accomplished more than most people far older than he is. He has secured a place in the history of Southeastern New Mexico. It won’t be surprising if he makes a name for himself in other areas as well.