cover image Gringos


Charles Portis. Simon & Schuster, $18.45 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-72457-3

A wild and woolly, offbeat ride through a quicksand Mexican-American mindscape, Portis's ( True Grit ; Norwood ) latest saga features Jimmy Burns, an idler from Louisiana transplanted to Mexico, where he ekes out a living finding missing persons and doing odd jobs. Equally odd are the other motley expatriates. Ninety-pound Louise Kurle, who's writing a book about benign space dwarfs, suspects her missing husband, Rudy, was abducted by UFOs. Big Dan, a paunchy ex-con guru/white supremacist/kidnapper, poses to his band of deranged hippies as El Mago, the wizard whom the Mayas predict will appear at the end of time. Murder, adventure and Indian lore animate a Mexico aswarm with New Age mystics, kooks, skinheads, graduate students, maverick archeologists and looters of shrines. For all these doings, the story doesn't really go anywhere, and Portis's uprooted dreamers and schemers here have a tiresome sameness. (Jan.)