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Country of the Bad Wolfes Paperback – January 31, 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

A portrait of Mexican culture and history during the nineteenth century, this lengthy family saga clops along at a leisurely pace, tracing the rise and fall of Mexico’s President Diaz and a wealthy merchant family, the Wolfes. Using his own family genealogy as a model, Blake digs nuggets of fictional family lore out of the murky past and sets them in chronological order, one vignette at a time. Irish pirate Roger Blake Wolfe escapes to the U.S. and sires twins whose reckless exploits land them in Mexico a generation later, where they build a flawed dynasty based on questionable business practices. As another set of swashbuckling, impassively cruel twins repeats the familial pattern of crime, success, and flight, the plot wends its way toward the inevitable. Readers will find themselves flipping to the family tree at the front to figure out who the characters are, though the message is clear: the sins of the fathers will be visited upon the sons throughout the generations. This is historical fiction in the manner of Umberto Eco, long on detail, short on character, many-faceted, slow, and savory. --Jen Baker


"James Carlos Blake is an American prose-hero, and writers of the western inclination have been stealing him blind for years. Get this book. You won't be sorry." — Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Hummingbird's Daughter, Queen of America and Mr. Mendoza's Paintbrush

“Blake’s boisterous tenth novel unspools an epic filial tale, detailing the confluence of Mexico’s ill-starred destiny with the fate of an Irish-British-American family so thoroughly accursed that it seems almost inevitable that the clan should become Mexican … A multigenerational saga [with] wonderfully drawn characters … A natural yarn-spinner … Blake excels in gorily choreographed fight scenes [and] while [he] keeps you immersed in his wildly picaresque tale, he slowly reels in the novel’s dark take-home: it doesn’t matter if your distant ancestry is pre-Columbian or Hibernian, Aztec or Iberian. Sooner or later, it’ll catch up with you.” — John Phillip Santos, Texas Monthly

“A great read from start to finish, full of grit, local color, and a large cast of vibrant characters … this brawling, high-spirited, and superbly realized family saga … offers many pleasures, including endearing characters, unlikely love stories, and all manner of mayhem. Highly recommended for fans of literary fiction.” — Library Journal

"A rollicking tale … that acquires depth as it moves across generations and national boundaries … Blake doesn't mind a boudoir but his real strengths come in describing manly mayhem, which he portrays with uncommon poetry … [With] Cormac McCarthy's tutelary spirit [and] soupçons of Garcia Márquez … the book keeps good company … full of wry humor and thoughtful writing." — Kirkus Reviews

“Murder, politics, and illegitimate children fuel this engrossing and wonderfully realized saga.” — Publishers Weekly

“This is historical fiction in the manner of Umberto Eco … many-faceted, slow, and savory.” — Booklist

"Over the years, Blake has often been compared to Cormac McCarthy, mainly because both writers often use Mexico as setting and symbol and both are known for focusing on aspects of the human attraction to violence. Blake delivers on both in Country of the Bad Wolfes ... [which] is the first of a rumored series of books about the big bad Wolfes. This first book will lead many readers to look ahead anxiously for the next one’s appearance.”—Southwestern American Literature
“Blake has a sure-handed grasp of 19th western US history and culture that is every bit as engaging and authentic as say, Cormac McCarthy and Guy Vanderhaeghe and Jim Harrison … [A] skillful and astute narrative … an enthralling tale.” — Robert Birnbaum, Our Man in Boston

“[I]mbued with the magical realism of García Márquez … [and] the frontier brutality of Cormac McCarthy … Blake's story will entertain fans of historical and adventure novels alike.” — Shelf Awareness

“[A] sprawling, magnificent story of three generations of men, their fortunes, loves and losses, during a fascinating time in the history of the United States and Mexico.” — Bookworks

“Spanning three generations, [Blake] spins the tale of a family ‘cursed by twin passions.’ Some in the Wolfe clan are ‘in thrall to the passions of the flesh,’ others ‘to a passion for risks of blood,’ and many are ‘damned by both.’ Love and violence rule the day, and are parceled equally between the sexes … Country of the Bad Wolfes is an engrossing novel.” — Texas Observer

"[A] sprawling saga … Blake's knowledge of the history and particulars of the periods and places where the account takes place reveals close research and almost encyclopedic knowledge, especially in small details … his [is a] prodigious talent " — Dallas Morning News

“Blake's literary badlands are uniquely his own — crime novels set in well-researched historical settings that manage to avoid crime-fiction clichés .” — GQ

“The book is trademark Blake with rogue heroes, duels, and demons and angels of human nature locked in a violent dance with one another. It’s a look at the United States and Mexico and the bloodshed, politics, and history that lies between the borders … As a whole, James Carlos Blake’s work has the feel of lived-in legend. It’s a collection of old folk ballads singing to a new present. And I highly recommend you listen … Country of the Bad Wolfes tells us the best is yet to come.” — Scott Montgomery, MysteryPeople

“A literary page-turner … a romantic, violent, panoramic historical saga (written) with a journalist's eye for detail and a poet's love of words … a fascinating read.” — San Antonio Express-News

“[A] beautifully crafted book … rich in historical detail and featuring memorable characters … takes the historical novel to an entirely new place … an exceptional piece of modern fiction.” — Tucson Citizen

"This is the masterwork that Blake has been working on for years. Don't be intimidated by the book's epic, multi-generational scope either. You'll be absolutely riveted from the first page … Full of fascinating history, the Wolfe family saga is ribald, raunchy and essential reading … don't miss it." — Patrick Millikin, Poisoned Pen

“[In] a story of power and what will be done to keep it, James Carlos Blake puts together a historical novel packed cover to cover with intrigue … a fine and much recommended addition to any historical fiction collection.” — Midwest Book Review

“[A] worthy book … Country of the Bad Wolfes is a poetic ... offspring of Gabriel Garcia Márquez and Cormac McCarthy. … The Wolfe family is said to be cursed by 'passions of the flesh' and 'risks of blood' ... 'a curse like a ready noose around the neck of every Wolfe.' In the end, it is the quick, thoughtless choices of flawed men, women, leaders and nations that cause suffering, violence and early death. For Blake, it seems, we are all cursed with that noose around our neck.” — Tucson Weekly

"[A] sweeping family saga [of] adventuring and philandering, smuggling and murdering and politicking in early-1900s Mexico and the borderlands... Blake not only weaves a good fireside yarn, he produces a strong literary tale too. [He] expertly plays with form, changing verb tense and perspective occasionally, slipping back and forth through time and place as though from string to string on a guitar neck.... [And] the women in this novel are also strong, smart, and funny ... men's equal in Wolfe country." —Rain Taxi

"[A] wild tale of family, twins and politics. ... [with] Hemingway-like descriptions.... You won’t want to put this one down until it’s over. ... The Wolfes are a lively bunch ... that make Zorba the Greek look dull.... The book is not for the weak-hearted, or the highly Moral. It will make you squirm a bit, no matter how open-minded or tough you think you are. It is a violent book ... of turbulent times ... [but] there is beauty and love, and antics of a high-spirited family. It is exciting and rewards an intellectual curiosity about how things work, how the world changed, how history is interpreted. You will want the read all of Blake’s books. Bravo. "—Helium

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press; Original edition (January 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935955039
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935955030
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #805,144 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lawrence A. Strid on March 10, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
James Carlos Blake is my favorite author of fiction, and I have read everything he has had published. Most of his past books concern anti-heroes who meet tragic ends after being forced into living life on the edge by circumstances of birth, violence or hard times beyond their control. Most of his work is notable for having some actual history incorporated into the story.
Country Of The Bad Wolfes supposedly incorporates the history of his own family, arising from the exploits of various American adventurers and freebooters who went into 19th Century Mexico to find their fortunes or demise in the violence and economic opportunity that characterized that neck of the woods at the time.
The book follows the sprawling family genealogy of the Wolfe family, and in particular two sets of twins, the second set being the offspring of John Roger Wolfe, an American who ends up being the owner of a huge hacienda south of the border after coming to regard Mexico as his parent country. The second set of twins, Blake Cortez and James Sebastian, are essentially one personality residing in two people, each of them skilled at anything that captures their fancy, be it street-fighting, hunting gators, shark fishing, breaking horses, sailing boats, and using guns, and whom are not at all resistant at taking a life if it gets in their way. And plenty of lives do get in their way.
The book tends to lag somewhat when it drifts away from the exploits of Blake Cortez and James Sebastian and shifts to the other family members, and the author's style (from my viewpoint, anyway) is somewhat changed from his past works in that there seems to be a greater emphasis on telling the story through the dialogue of the characters as opposed to a writer's third party prose.
I would recommend Mr.
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...and buy this book. If you've found yourself on this page looking at reviews of "Country of the Bad Wolfes" as I found myself not too long ago, chances are that you are a fan of similar authors/genres. Let me start by saying that I am a self confessed Cormac McCarthy worshiper, he is by far my favorite author. I re-read ALL his books on a regular basis as I do with most of my favorites, and his the Evening Redness in the West/Blood Meridian is one of two books I re-read religiously once a year, the other being The Whale/Moby Dick. I always find myself searching out other authors who can excite and engage me in the similar manner as my favorites, McCarthy, Melville, Faulkner, Cornwell(Bernard), Gaiman, ect., so when I found James Carlos Blake it was a godsend and as I frequently do with an author I like I am now devouring everything he has published. I've seen people in some reviews refer to JCB as "Cormac light", or "Blood Meridian for dummies", and I think this is a huge disrespect to JCB and his readers. Sure there are similarities between their work, but both have a very distinct style and prose, each amazing and beautiful in their own unique way. If anything I think they complement each other, for an example CM may introduce me to a haciendado or mayordomo with a broad brush stroke, while JCB paints in the little details and brings them to life, and vice versa. I can feel James Grady Cole riding right up to Buenaventura and feeling right at home breaking horses with John Samuel.
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Not sure why his latest skipped hard copy. His best and latest whacks your guy-parts loco as did my favorites.....RED GRASS RIVER/WILDWOOD BOYS/IN THE ROGUE BLOOD. Read the hell out of them twice over the years. I won't ramble on and no don't compare Blake to Cormac McCarthy. Don't. James Carlos Blake doesn't write endless pages on sumptuous clouds and hills. His skill--razor sharp story telling that makes one feel like he's lived it or dreamed it better than the rest. Enough said. Read him.
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Disclaimer - the author is a distant cousin of mine, although we have never met.

I believe I have read all of James Carlos Blake's books, starting with his book on Pancho Villa. If you enjoy historical fiction, you will find his accounts of life in 19th century Mexico good reading. It is a violent story so tender readers may wish to look elsewhere.
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James Carlos Blake has never written an uninteresting book. He also writes some of the most graphic and violent books I have read. This is an autobiographical novel regarding his family and how they came to Mexico and what they did there. It's like watching a mini-series on television as the characters come and go. Be prepared to run to the dictionary a time or two, and some Spanish would help...but over all a very enjoyable, well written and interesting story.
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An interesting novel that follows the lives of the Wolfe Family for three-fourths of a century. Although the book follows the exploits of the entire family, it mainly centers around two sets of twins. Although I liked this novel, the plot did drag at times. Once the characters of James Sebastian Wolfe and Blake Cortez Wolfe were introduced, the novel was hard to put down. This was my first James Carlos Blake novel that I have read and it somewhat reminded me of the writing of my favorite author, Cormac McCarthy. I plan on reading other novels by this author.
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