CHIHUAHUA, 1916 by Otis Carney


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Ranchers near the U.S./Mexico border get caught up in the chaos around Pancho Villa's WW I-era invasion of New Mexico--in a fair melodrama slated for TV miniseries-dom. Sam Eagle and 18-year-old son Pup care for a herd owned by El Paso rancher C. L. Poison but located in Chihuahua, south of the border. So when Villa goes on the rampage, Poison arrives, ordering the operation shut down and the herd driven north--but, though Sam and Pup make it to New Mexico, the Villa-ist revolutionaries are there too, shooting up the town. Worse yet, back in Chihuahua, Poison is killed by other revolutionaries, and Lottie--the young Mormon cook whom old Sam wants to marry--is kidnapped. Sam and Pup must then try to track down and rescue Lottie, of course. And they're fight in the midst of rescuing her from ex-Wobbly Ora Scalley, a profiteering desert-rat with a machine-gun, when the U.S. troops (led by Gen. Black Jack Pershing, a humorless shell since his family's death by fire) arrive and take over. Sam, Pup, Lottie, and Ora are escorted to the Mormon town of Colonia Dublan; Sam gets the idea of rounding up stray cattle in the hills and driving them north; Lottie seduces Pup; Pup joins the army, then runs off with Lottie to Chihuahua City. And the climax is a U.S. officer's fatally idiotic attack on a federally protected Mexican town. Drunken fights, street shootouts, father/son sexual tensions, and dib-dabs of history (Villa never appears, but Pershing's determination not to provoke a war comes through loud and clear)--a workable period-piece with enough authentic dialogue and atmospheric backgrounds (town-life with bivouac-ing troops) to keep the soapy plottings moving along.

Pub Date: Sept. 5th, 1980
Publisher: Prentice-Hall