From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. 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.)
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Twenty miles south of the Arizona-Mexico border, the Sierra Madre Mountains begin their ascent. Nine hundred miles long, the range climbs to nearly 11,000 feet and contains several canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon. Grant points out that the land is home to Indians, drug smugglers, bandits, Mormons, and opium farmers. Fifteen years ago, he explored this land, where he was chased by cocaine-fueled Mexican hillbillies seeking to kill him. He visited a folk healer hoping to cure his insomnia and was told to take rattlesnake pills, and he attended strange religious rituals. Grant also consorted with cocaine-snorting cops, taught English to Guarijio Indians, and hunted for an outlaw’s buried treasure. “I never want to set foot in the Sierra Madre again,” he writes. “I was out of courage, out of patience, out of compassion.” It was an arduous trip for Grant, but readers will be glad that he took it. --George Cohen