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Country of the Bad Wolfes

Helium

This family saga by James Carlos Blake is a dynamic and slightly irreverent view of history as well as families in general. The book covers many years and much terrain between the Civil War era and fifty or so years that followed, featuring New England, then the rough territories of Texas and Coastal, Northern Mexico. It is a wild tale of family, twins and psychology, and politics. The story of ex-patriots and a grisly, poignant theory of what is worth loyalty both come through. It is based on reality, partially inspired by the family history of the author.

James Carlos Blake is the new epitome of Western storyteller. The wild Southwest, survival and outlaws as well as corruption and natural beauty, is always a fascinating theme. You can tell that he was born in Mexico. Blake adds his own Hemingway-like descriptions, Sundance Kid action, and intelligent political analysis to make a modern application of old lessons and historic facts. You wonít want to put this one down until itís over.

There are timely lessons about the military life, prisons, banana-republics, economics, corruption and manipulation. It is American history, with a personal perspective. Perhaps the world needs to re-read some of this. Fiction often gets the messages across when dry journalism fails.

The Wolfes are a lively bunch indeed. The sparkle in their eyes, at least the younger branches, and the recognition of adventure and unconventional views is both a blessing, for ultimate survival, and a curse, highly frowned-upon by society. They took individuality to the extreme heights only Americans are known for, and yet adopted and appreciated the Mexican culture and landscape with a thorough belief in working together.

Not a bit sexist, the siblings plus extended families make a difference and thrive with a combination of fierce instincts, intelligence, and a life-force that makes Zorba the Greek look dull. The love stories that inevitably evolve throughout the family, and even influence the plot, are good ones. There is much loss, much love. Priorities are not predictable, but they are understandable. Life was cruel and difficult in the cities as well as the plantations of old Mexico, yet somehow the comparisons of North American life make it all far more desirable.

The book is not for the weak-hearted, or the highly Moral. It will make you squirm a bit, no matter how open-minded or tough you think you are. It is a violent book, telling a horrible tale of turbulent times. There is beauty and love, and full of antics of a high-spirited family. It is exciting and rewards an intellectual curiosity about how things work, how the world changed, how history is interpreted. You will want the read all of Blakeís books. Bravo.
- May 7, 2012 

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