cover image El Paso

El Paso

Winston Groom. Liveright, $27.95 (480p) ISBN 978-1-63149-224-2

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.)