Hilario Peña – Chinola Kid

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My rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Rodrigo is trigger man for a big-time Tijuana gangster, but he’s going through a career crisis. When he realizes his boss has manipulated him into one last job in a backwater town in his native Sinaloa, Rodrigo’s career crisis blossoms into a full-blown identity crisis. After displaying his prodigious criminal talents while reclaiming his hijacked SUV from the young prince of a local crime family, Rodrigo is ready to ride off into the sunset. But the town makes him an unexpected offer… to become the local sheriff.

That’s the call to action in Hilario Peña’s “narco-western,” Chinola Kid. It’s a wonderfully observed tribute to the traditional western novel, and classic Hollywood westerns such as High Noon.

Devastated by the ongoing turf battle between the families that hold the local heroin and marijuana franchises, Rodrigo sees an opportunity to embrace his inner good-guy, and clean up the town. Deadly earnest, he posts the new rules, starting with a 100 peso fine for spitting in the street, another for using bad language in the presence of women, and so on through an escalating list of offenses. His is a zero tolerance system of enforcement.

As we explore Rodrigo’s successes and challenges as the local law man, Peña gives us a cast of vivid characters, and makes them real through extensive use of colorful dialog.

Enforcing black and white rules in a gray world is not destined to last forever, despite Rodrigo’s refusal to be discouraged by betrayal, or to grasp opportunities for corruption. The climactic showdown becomes inevitable, but Peña uses it as an opportunity to ponder the very nature of power. I came away with the observation that nobody is ever really the boss, because every boss in turn has his own boss.

A well-constructed fun read, filled with memorable characters.

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Desde Amazon:

“¡Vaqueros vs. narcos!”

Los habitantes del Tecolote apenas pueden creer el cambio que ha sufrido su pueblo en los últimos meses, el cual pasó de ser la población con más asesinatos por metro cuadrado en el mundo, a convertirse en un verdadero ejemplo de bonanza económica para el país. Uno de los factores que contribuyeron a este nuevo estado de las cosas podría ser la determinación de un comisario elegido democráticamente por sus gobernados para hacer cumplir su ley, que no admite transgresiones de ningún tipo.

Rodrigo Barajas es su nombre y la primera impresión que uno se lleva al mirarlo es la de encontrarse frente a uno de esos alguaciles del Viejo Oeste, de pocas palabras y mucha acción, con su bigote a lo Wyatt Earp, su sombrero Stetson, y esa mirada serena, reflexiva y sabia que pertenece a una especie de hombre en peligro de extinción.

Apreciable lector, en sus manos sostiene un auténtico narcowestern, una “vieja historia del Nuevo Oeste” en deuda con las películas de Kurosawa, Howard Hawks y el libro vaquero; construida sobre valores perdidos como el honor, la valentía y la decencia, ideales para combatir el cinismo de los días que corren.

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