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on 11 October 2008
"The old gringo came to Mexico to die" is how the second chapter of Fuentes' fine novel The Old Gringo begins. That novel (made into a movie) is about Ambrose Bierce, who disappeared in Mexico during the revolution. In that novel Bierce says that being shot in front of a Mexican stone wall is much preferable to falling down the cellar stairs or dying in a hospital. You get the feeling with God's Middle Finger that Grant must have a similar deathwish: Grant pushes fate to the limit and, still alive by some strange quirk of chance, comes back and gives fate an even stronger jab. It this were live TV rather than a book Grant wrote you might be yelling "Go back!" at the TV or covering your eyes. This is a harrowing book, with an appallingly close sense of imminent death.

The book begins with Grant being hunted by half-drunken drug gang members: one of them told him that killing Grant would "please his trigger finger", and Grant is on their home turf--they know the area and he does not. They are having fun--sport--and Grant at this point is terrified. The episode resumes in the last chapter, and in between you see how Grant got into that predicament. This area of Mexico is bad, very bad indeed, but you find that there's really bad and really really bad, and then worse yet. There is no effective difference between the drug gangs and what passes for law enforcement. In one town the police chief and some of his men make Grant join them in snorting lines of cocaine, and as touchy as the situation becomes, it's a walk in the park compared to much of what Grant encounters. But Grant keeps returning, pushing deeper into the worst parts of the area, pushing the envelope.

Most of us, with exceptions such as Sebastian Junger who is quoted on the cover of the book "you can't decide whether to keep reading or go to Mexico to see for yourself", would happily stay a long way away. If we did feel brave and foolhardy enough to go near the fringes, the first time we had stone killers point their AK-47s at us, we'd leave in a great fornication of a hurry (as the book might phrase it) never to return. This is a wonderfully-written book, hair-raising to a degree that would put any Stephen King novels to shame, one that you won't forget.
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on 29 December 2011
Beware...this is the same book as "Bandit Roads" by the same author, its just a different title. Not sure why its published under two different titles but Amazon doesn't tell you ! I bought both by mistake.
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on 9 June 2013
If you're looking for information on 'good cheap hotels and Restaurants with nice views' don't bother. This is travel writing as it should be. Personal, well observed, descriptive. Its the Authors trip, no one else's. He has a talent for describing the characters he meets concisely but intelligently. He paints the geography, mood and people interestingly and gives enough history (of both the region and people) to convey a sense of travel, not just a visit. He notes the idiosyncratic as well as the common and the profound as well as the mundane in just about the right balance. You get a sense of his excitement as well as his frustrations but at times he distances himself enough for you to observe the people and places without his world view of things getting in the way. I enjoyed the whole book and wanted more. If I have one criticism its that the Author probably wanted to be Kerouac when he was growing up....but then who didn't.
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on 4 April 2012
From an early age I was fascinated by native american indian culture,this book explores the territory of the apache peoples the Sierra Madre and Dragoon mountains.The book evokes images of people then and now as wild and fierce as the landscape.Now there are very few apache that inhabit the region but instead a wild bunch of assorted characters from folk healers to itinerant mexicans.The book captures the sense of latent menace that is always pervading even in the most seemingly harmless of situations.I had visions of one day visiting myself,but this book telling it like it is shows just how dangerous and lawless it can be.Never the less it is a fascinating read that will have your heart racing.
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on 17 February 2014
I have travelled extensive around Mexico, and I have to say I found this book a little bit boring!!

I guess its okay for someone planning to visit the Sierra Madre, but really I think there are better books out there.
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on 1 May 2013
Richard Grant is a very intrepid traveller! His journey through the drug dealing badlands of Mexico is terrifyingly realistic and fascinating. Great book. Rather him than me!
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on 28 August 2015
Be WARNED that this is the SAME BOOK as Bandit Roads...just published under another name/title...he`s a great writer and I guess this is a publishers ruse/ploy.
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on 6 June 2008
From the blurb on the cover I expected something more than this, the authors experiences arent that amazing apart from his last one which drove him out of the Sierra altogether. He meets up with some interesting characters, relates a lot of second hand information about the drugs trade, but rarely gets into the heart of things, a few people trying to sell him drugs is about as about as deep as it gets.

Granted it would have been pretty hard to get into the scene much further without getting killed, but I kept expecting him to do so. (Go deeper, not get killed.) Recommended though overall, and did make me want to go see for myself.
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