El Paso

el-pasoAuthor: Winston Groom

Publisher: Liveright

Release Date: October 4, 2016

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Groom dives back into a historical novel and shows that he still has what it takes to draw fiction readers in!

Arthur Shaughnessy has just received a telegram that is a challenge from his father. With their railroad company (New England and Pacific) close to financial turmoil, his father has decided to sail his yacht from Massachusetts to Ireland and leave Arthur to figure out how to make payroll.  So, he decides to do just that.  Arthur goes to the bank and uses the yacht as collateral to secure loan, which naturally enrages his father when he gets the telegraph to bring the yacht back to moor as it cannot enter international waters.  Now that his father his back, Arthur finds out that his father is also broke with exception of many of his properties located around the world.  A decision is made to head to the Mexican ranch of Valle del Sol and sell off the majority of the cattle.  Little do they know that just prior to this decision, the Mexican revolutionary general Pancho Villa has just raided the ranch and caused all kinds of mayhem from rustling several of the cattle to murdering the ranch manager.   This is discovered once they enter the Texas border town of El Paso and decide to press on to Valle del Sol anyway.  What transpires is an epic adventure including kidnapping, bullfights, and several unfortunate incidents that include victims of Pancho Villa’s rage.

It has been a long time since Groom has published a fiction novel and I wasn’t sure what would be waiting me. I’ve read several of his fiction works, most recognizably Forrest Gump and Gump and Company, but my favorite has always been Such a Pretty Girl.  Being from Texas, I was excited to see that he had a novel set in El Paso, or so I thought.  It was partly set there, but more set south of the border.  Even so, everything has to come thru El Paso.  So, I dove in.  This is a fairly lengthy book and I had to power through the set up, but once I did, the remainder of the story flew by.

Groom’s trademark of his main characters having interaction with famous historical characters still holds true in this book. Everything centers around Pancho Villa, so Groom had his turn rewriting part of history as well, but it was very well observed that he did his research on the characters.  However, there are some pretty disturbing scenes throughout the book depicting murders of several of the characters that may not be for readers with weak stomachs.  But there are also some very intense scenes that readers will enjoy, in particular the bullfight scene.  There is also some strong language, so I would recommend this book for mature readers.  Also, in true Groom style, there are some happy points toward the end of the book, but one only needs to remember Forrest Gump and how that was not necessarily a happy ending.  Enjoy!

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