Three decades after the first publication of Forrest Gump, Winston Groom returns to fiction with this sweeping American epic.
Long fascinated with the Mexican Revolution and the vicious border wars of the early 20th century, Winston Groom brings to life a much-forgotten period of history in this sprawling saga of heroism, injustice, and love. An episodic novel set in six parts, El Paso pits the legendary Pancho Villa, a much-feared outlaw and revolutionary, against a thrill-seeking railroad tycoon known as the Colonel, whose fading fortune is tied up in a colossal ranch in Chihuahua, Mexico.
But when Villa kidnaps the Colonel's grandchildren in the midst of a cattle drive and absconds into the Sierra Madre, the aging New England patriarch and his adopted son head to El Paso, hoping to find a group of cowboys brave enough to hunt the generalissimo down.
Replete with gunfights, daring escapes, and an unforgettable bullfight, El Paso, with its textured blend of history and legend, becomes an indelible portrait of the American Southwest in the waning days of the frontier.
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Lacks humanity, depth, and geography
While I understand that this novel is a story with some fast and loose connections to history, it should be at least close to the truth at the points where it ties into actual events and places. The book simply makes no sense, making up history, folding time and geography upon itself, and making up historical figures' roles in events. Even the fact-checking afterword from the author at the end is wrong. Tom Mix did not die peacefully in his sleep as an old man. He was killed in a car crash in 1940. There is no evidence that he ever met Pancho Villa, only a made-up novel/play about it, and he certainly wasn't a captain in Villa's army. The geography bears no relation to the real world. Michoacán is somehow in Chihuahua, people journey for weeks and months to cover maybe 60-100 miles while somehow covering 500 miles in a half-day. The timing of the events of the Mexican Revolution are also scrambled. In addition, the story is at times, grisly just to be grisly and sensational. Animals and people of color are used as literary tools to indicate lack of humanity or background context. There is a fairly high body count of humans and animals alike.
Yes, he was a good narrator. I only wished he had read a little faster because the book was so tedious.
Tom Mix - that was such a strange inclusion and completely unnecessary. Ultimately, does a hero (albeit a flawed one) need to be a white male, preferably a cowboy idol, so much so that the author needs to pluck him out of the Southwest U.S. and place him in this story?
I lived in northern Mexico, just below the Chihuahua state line, for several years, and nothing about this book made any sense. If the author ever traveled in this area, he must have done it blindfolded. If he did do any background research, it must have been from U.S. authors as well. The novel is remarkably one-sided in its perspective.
- George L. Holmgreen