Sunday, October 28, 2012


By James Carlos Blake

An outlaw telling the tale of his life and how it intertwined with that of Pancho Villa, the revolutionary, bandit, & warlord of North Mexico, in the upheaval of the Mexican Revolution is apt to have more than a few cynical observations. As in, all his observations are cynical. Rudy Fierro relates his life as Pancho Villa’s right-hand man from the coming of the Revolution to Villa’s death in the 1920s (in fact Fierro is based on a historical figure, one of Villa's lieutenants). Fierro is not interested in revolution as a means for social justice, he’s interested in as a way to be utterly free of any restraints. He kills, boozes, and screws his way across Mexico with absolute abandon. There are no social bandits in Fierro’s world, except by accident. For Fierro is an unreliable narrator, filtering everything though his own self-centered world. He recognizes Villa’s charisma and appeal to the masses, yet survival means keeping to the code of the killers that overthrew the old regime. Indeed Fierro bears little ill-will for the rich and powerful as such, only contempt for their inability to hold on to what they had.

The Friends of Pancho Villa is perhaps less a novel than a running commentary on the nihilism of war. What Mexico endured was less a revolution than an unraveling of society, where violence became the norm, and those who were personally adapted to use it as the first resort were the fittest for survival. Blake views the whole from one skewed corner, yet manages to cut right to the heart of the contradiction that purging society of injustice by violence, merely creates greater scope for injustice.
-Dave Hardy