Mysterious Press, $24.00, 258 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2129-5
The roughly 2,400 mile long imaginary line which separates the US from Mexico encompasses an area known as the borderlands. It’s been disputed, fought over and illegally crossed in both directions for as long as it’s been drawn. It separates the haves from the have-nots and represents two uniquely different cultures, each of which has its own customs and laws. But in the borderland, those differences are crushed together and blended into something that combines parts of both yet all of neither. They are the rules of the borderlands.
The Rules of Wolfe, by James Carlos Blake, shines a masterful and well written light, in the form of an entertaining crime fiction novel, on the borderlands and the “ultra-violent Mexican drug trade” taking place there. The brutality is mind-numbing, but Blake’s prose is written with such artistic grace that the reader can’t wait to look at the next page. Set in the present-day, The Rules of Wolfe tell the story of a young ambitious member of a trans-border crime family, who runs afoul of Mexican drug lords while trying to make his bones as a worthy member of the Wolfe clan. The Wolfe’s, some of whom live in Mexico and others in the United States, have a long and colorful history in the area, going back to the first quarter of the ninetieth century. They’ve grown wealthy over the last two hundred years by smuggling guns, liquor and any other contraband that’s profitable, back and forth through the borderlands. They manage to pull this off despite being gringos, by their reputation for fair dealing and, when necessary, ruthless warfare. If you’re not familiar with James Carlos Blake it’s not surprising. He’s only written nine novels, but each one is outstanding. Read his latest and learn why Kirkus Reviews calls him “The poet of the damned who writes like an angel.”