The Hot Country by Robert Olen Butler ** (of 4)
The first in a series about a rough and tumble journalist, Christopher Marlowe Cobb, who in this episode finds himself covering a delicate series of events in the Mexican Revolution. The Germans have sent a warship to Veracruz with hopes of arming Pancho Villa. Woodrow Wilson has sent an invasionary force to keep the revolution in check, but captures only Veracruz. The invading marines clean up trash. Cobb drinks, womanizes, brandishes a revolver and a typewriter, and a myriad other things you’d expect of a period piece masquerading as an early twentieth century detective story. The drowsy heat of Mexican towns is realistically captured, but the suspense is equally drowsy. Butler’s characters vacillate between sympathetic portrayals of real people and stereotypes of old Mexicans in sombreros and ponchos, dirty children with fast hands and wise-crack mouths, and dark-haired beauties in skin-tight leather. If you do read the book, you’ll have to read about the Mexican Revolution on wikipedia first in order to follow the plot.
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