Mysterious Book Report The Friends Of Pancho VillaThe Friends of Pancho Villa by James Carlos Blake

Berkley Publishing Group, PB, $13.00, 258 pages, ISBN 978-0-425-15304-5


A little over one hundred years ago, on March 9, 1916, a force of roughly 500 heavily armed men mounted on horseback and under the command of a cattle thief and bandit, rode up and out of the Sonoran Desert from Mexico. Under cover of night, thirty miles North of the international border with the United States, they attacked, looted and burned the little town of Columbus, New Mexico. They killed eighteen American citizens and wounded eight others before disappearing in the gray light of the false dawn. The unprovoked invasion so inflamed the American public and enraged the U.S. Congress that President Woodrow Wilson sent General John J. Pershing and a battalion of Buffalo Soldiers to hunt down and capture or kill the raiders in what was called the Punitive Expedition. From late June 1916 until early January 1917, Pershing—forever after known as ‘Black Jack’ for his command of the African-American Brigade—pursued the raiders without success. Then, with America about to enter World War I, the troops were recalled. The bandito the Americans went chasing after was named Doroteo Arrango. He was a desperado, a lover, a cattle thief, a revolutionary general and a killer. He was called The Centaur of the North; adored by many, despised by some and feared by all. He wrote his name as legend before riding into immortality . . . forever known to all the world . . . as Pancho Villa.

Now, thanks to a lucky turn of events, my wife June came home from the bookstore a few days ago with a gently used copy of a novel detailing the life and times of one of the twentieth-century’s most notorious individuals. As a bonus, it’s written by one of my favorite, although not so well known, authors. NOTE: Published in 1993, and now out of print, it’s hard to find. Try Be persistent. It’s worth it.

The Friends of Pancho Villa, (Berkley Publishing Group, PB, $13.00, 258 pages, ISBN 978-0-425-15304-5) by James Carlos Blake details the Mexican Revolution and the life of Pancho Villa as seen through the eyes of his next in command, a man known variously as—El Carnacero, (The Butcher), or El Senor Muerte, (Mr. Death)—Rudolfo Fierro.

Fierro is Villa’s friend, his executive Officer, confederate and the unofficial Lord High Executioner of the legendary Army of the North. He “Loves the revolution, it’s rolling thunder and brute power.” He is undyingly loyal to Villa and lives only to fight and kill those he sees as enemies of Mexico. In the masterful hands of author Blake, the butcher Fierro becomes a faithful and accurate chronicler of Villa and the Mexican Revolution . . . and he almost succeeds in making the unapologetic killer into a sympathetic narrator who blends fact and legend together into an electrifying jaunt through Northern Mexico. It’s a journey the reader won’t forget!


John Dwaine McKenna