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El Gavilan Paperback – December 18, 2011

3.8 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Ohio is a long way from the Mexican border, but El Gavilan was inspired by real events in a rural area of that state. The novel tells the story of a sudden influx of illegal immigrants; a spike in violent crime; the appearance of street gangs; and stresses on schools, policing, and other services. McDonald uses three lenses for the story: different police chiefs who span an ethical continuum from respectful law enforcement to murderous thuggery. When a brutal rape-murder follows an apartment-building fire made lethal because of the language barrier between victims and firefighters, two of the cops face a flashpoint that might overwhelm everyone in the region. El Gavilan is a big and broad story, and McDonald effectively uses a just-the-facts-ma’am narrative, fleshing out primary characters via flashbacks. It’s also an evenhanded story that begins with desperate families making a dangerous journey to an uncertain future. Crime fans will find much to like, and readers unfamiliar with the complexities of the issue will be engaged and informed. --Thomas Gaughan --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"As sobering and as urgent as tomorrow's headlines, this searing novel traces the struggle of the residents of fictional New Austin, Ohio, to cope with out-of-control illegal Latino immigrants. McDonald deftly balances his 'now' against the 'then' backstory as he dissects one of America's most tormenting social problems."
--Publisher's Weekly, starred review


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Tyrus Books (December 18, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1440531919
  • ISBN-13: 978-1440531910
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,228,208 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Forget about the old adage that you should never discuss religion in polite company, the new topic guaranteed to start an argument is immigration. I would bet that everyone in the U.S. knows at least one immigrant or first generation citizen. It is quite possible that everyone is at least acquainted with someone who entered the country illegally. Black and white, or innumerable shades of gray? A hot button topic to be sure!

El Gavilan tells the immigration story from several viewpoints, including a child crossing the harsh desert to the U.S. with her family and a former Border Patrol agent who lost his family to the war on immigration. Both were changed forever, but perhaps not in the way you might expect.

Sadly, this book reads more like a screenplay than a novel. You can't help but feel that you are being cheated as the story races along at breakneck speed, spinning by plot points as if checking them off a list. The story is good. The characters are good. I would have loved a little more time to explore them both. If that is not possible, perhaps the author will indulge us with a book featuring Cousin Chris?

My verdict: Read it! I would have liked a little more depth in parts, but all in all it is a good, engaging story.
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Format: Hardcover
It's difficult to find a good book that explores the tensions in the nation's heartland fueled by both legal and illegal immigration, but I think Craig McDonald has aced it in "El Gavilan" , a novel that the author has said was inspired by true events,

New Austin is a fictional south central Ohio town that is roiling in the clash of cultures between Latinos and Anglos. Horton County Sheriff Able Hawk (Hawk is "gavilan" in Spanish) is a complex character who is Joe Arpaio -- the controversial sheriff of Maricopa County Arizona, the greater Phoenix area -- tough on gangs and illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America. He blogs about illegal immigrants and sends bills to the federal government for reimbursement of expenses incurred when illegals are jailed. But the widowed Hawk is fiercely protective of the county's legal immigrants of Hispanic origin.

When Ohio native and former California based Border Patrol officer Tell Lyon arrives in New Austin as the city's newly appointed police chief, the two dance briefly around in a macho display but soon agree to cooperate in law enforcement in the county, if only because the corrupt sheriff in neighboring Vale County make cooperation mandatory. Tell got his name from a character, Tell Sackett, by Louis L'Amour, a writer his dad loved.

Lyon, a fluent Spanish speaker, quickly gains the trust of most of the county's Hispanic community, and is dubbed "El Leon" -- the lion. His Mexican-American California-born wife and their daughter were murdered by Mexican criminals and Lyon is still mourning their deaths in a house-firebombing when he meets lovely Patricia Maldonado, 15 years younger, ambitious for education and the daughter of the couple, Kathleen and Augustin, who run the county's best Mexican restaurant.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
El Gavilan is a contradiction. The novel shamelessly banks on the hot-button issue of immigration. Most if not all of the characters are cookie-cutter archetypes that play up stereotypes of one type or another. There are tons of continuity problems and factual issues that a few good re-writes could have solved. And yet despite all the problems with this book, it's difficult to put it down. I can sympathize with those who have criticized it, because it really is riddled with flaws. And I can also see why some might love this book, although I probably enjoyed it for very different reasons.

Reading this book is like watching an Ed Wood movie. And believe me, I mean no disrespect either to Ed Wood or the author in saying that. Just finding all the errors becomes an obsession in and of itself. Seriously, get a group of friends together and see who can find the most errors.

The Hispanic women who are depicted here are all described as sexual objects. And the male characters pretty much look at them as such. And for men that want to imagine a fantasy world where any woman will be an easy conquest, this book will fill that need.

The character names also provide a certain amount of amusement. Able Hawk? Tell Lyon? Give me a break. I am just glad that the author's Hispanic characters are too stereotypical to have been given very creative names.

The funniest part of the story line is that Able and Tell seem to be so in sync in terms of anticipating everything they should do to move the case forward. And yet they fail to even identify the most obvious suspect when it's staring them in the face.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Tapping into the emotions and issues presented by the current debate over immigration, "El Gavilan" - the "Hawk" - is a novel that will appeal to readers who do not seek a scholarly work on that topic. Rather, Craig McDonald gives readers a murder mystery involving sex, drugs, violence and the press. Three small-town Ohio sheriffs, all lawbreakers themselves, struggle with the moral and ethical dilemmas engendered by their own personal situations and that of the Latinos who live and work within their counties and towns.

Abel Hawk, the most senior of the three lawmen and sheriff of Horton County, is a hard-line enforcer with respect to the illegals in his town. He blogs about illegal immigration and bills the federal government for the expense of jailing undocumented individuals whom he has arrested. Yet, he is extremely protective of the Latinos in his community who are legal. Tell Lyon, a former Border Patrol officer, lost his family to a violent drug lord's revenge; in an attempt to put the past behind him, he has come to New Austin as police chief. Walt Pierce, Vale County sheriff and the third lawman, is a vicious and territorial individual. The rape and murder of Thalia Gomez Ruiz, whom Abel knows and respects, precipitates the events that will eventually ensnare all three lawmen, their families, and their communities.

Alternating between "Then" and the current setting, "El Gavilan" was best in those portions addressing Thalia's journey to the United States. The hardships of crossing the border illegally are well written and evoke sympathy for the Gomez family. This is when Craig McDonald's writing is at its best. The mystery surrounding Thalia's murder is, for the reader, resolved early in the novel.
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