cover image God’s Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre

God’s Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre

Richard Grant. Free Press, $15 (288pp) ISBN 978-1-4165-3440-2

As he travels through Mexico’s Sierra Madre, one of the largest drug-producing regions in the world, British journalist Grant (American Nomads ) encounters a rugged landscape where the mythical old Mexico meets the challenges of the new. The birthplace of Pancho Villa and the Apaches’ last refuge, the Sierra Madre has long been home to outlaws and eccentric characters that inspired a variety of American westerns. Into this legendary danger zone, with its exceptionally high murder rate, rides Grant—on horseback, though he has never ridden previously. Grant is the finest kind of travel narrator; though fully cognizant of the dangers and foolhardiness of his obsession with this land, he throws himself into crazy situations, such as a quest for buried gold treasure, a sampling of Mexican folk remedies, a terrifying Tarahumara Indian ritual when “God gets into his annual drinking bout with the Devil,” a little cocaine or “blasting parakeet” with local drug dealers, and lots and lots of drinking. He narrates these adventures with unflappable charm and humor, risking his life to the reader’s benefit, shared fear and delight of discovery. Though eventually worn out by his physically and emotionally challenging journey, Grant still manages to produce a clear-eyed, empathetic account of this complex, fascinating place. (Mar.)