Long fascinated with the Mexican Revolution and the vicious border wars of the early twentieth century, best-selling author Winston Groom brings to life a much-forgotten period of history in this episodic saga set in six parts. Pitting the legendary Pancho Villa against "the Colonel," a thrill-seeking Bostonian railroad tycoon whose fading fortune is tied up in a colossal ranch in Chihuahua, El Paso opens during a time of dramatic upheaval in Mexico--its government being squeezed on one end by Villa's revolutionaries and on the other by "filthy" American capitalists.Read more...
Long fascinated with the Mexican Revolution and the vicious border wars of the early twentieth century, best-selling author Winston Groom brings to life a much-forgotten period of history in this episodic saga set in six parts. Pitting the legendary Pancho Villa against "the Colonel," a thrill-seeking Bostonian railroad tycoon whose fading fortune is tied up in a colossal ranch in Chihuahua, El Paso opens during a time of dramatic upheaval in Mexico--its government being squeezed on one end by Villa's revolutionaries and on the other by "filthy" American capitalists.
Content to observe the war from aboard his dazzling yacht, the Ajax, the Colonel is suddenly pulled into this drama when his famous Valle del Sol ranch is raided for nearly "two million and a half dollars in beef on the hoof." Oblivious to the realities of war and hoping to salvage his losses, the Colonel whisks his family down to Mexico where they make a disturbing discovery: it was Villa who not only stole the cattle but also murdered their beloved ranch manager. Even worse, Villa's henchmen abduct the Colonel's grandchildren in another daring raid only days later.
Frantic, the aging patriarch and his adopted son race to El Paso, hoping to gather a group of cowboys brave enough to hunt down the generalissimo on his own turf. As the desperate Yankees quickly learn once they return to Chihuahua, their deep pockets and political clout mean next to nothing in a crumbling nation rife with communist sympathizers. After weeks of searching and with no trace of Villa, the Colonel fears all is lost--that is, until a twist of fate unites his party with that of Johnny Ollas, an aspiring matador whose wife has also been kidnapped by the marauding revolutionaries. Bloodied and battered, the two factions unite, galloping off on an extraordinary manhunt through some of the most inhospitable terrain on earth: the vast and snake-ridden Sierra Madre.
The novel explodes into an epic as an extraordinary cast of characters from both history and imagination begin to emerge, all vying to get their hands on the ever-elusive Villa. But no matter what prize each player ultimately seeks, no one is left unscathed in this sprawling story of heroism, injustice, and love. Replete with shootouts, daring escapes, and an unforgettable bullfight, El Paso brings to life a crucial moment in history and, in the process, becomes an indelible portrait of the American Southwest in the final days of the wild frontier.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-08-29
- Reviewer: Staff
Groom’s (Forrest Gump) expansive, rich novel is set in the harsh deserts and mountains of northern Mexico during the 1916 Mexican revolution, with sharply drawn fictional characters in a bloody mix with Gen. Pancho Villa and a cast of true-life personalities. When Boston railroad tycoon Col. John Shaughnessy, his adopted son, Arthur, and their families visit the colonel’s vast Mexican cattle ranch, the ranch is attacked and his grandchildren are kidnapped by Villa and held for ransom. Frustrated and angry that President Woodrow Wilson refuses to help recover the children, the brash colonel and reluctant Arthur lead a party of hired cowboys on a rescue mission. As Shaughnessy’s Partisan Rangers pursue Villa’s army, a Mexican bullfighter and his four brothers also track Villa, hoping to rescue the bullfighter’s captive wife, resulting in a most unusual and vicious bullfight. Adding intrigue and suspense are a motley collection of real-life characters traveling with Villa, such as socialist journalist John Reed, cowboy movie star Tom Mix, cynical satirist Ambrose Bierce, and a mysterious German hoping to use Villa to ignite a war between the United States and Mexico. Battles, a tense prisoner exchange, and clever ransom negotiations round out this historically vivid and marvelously complex tale. (Oct.)