Lansford's novelized biography successfully rescues Villa from the greasy old bandit leader image created by Wallace Beery and establishes him as an heroically honest man and genius of guerrilla tactics. Lansford also demolishes former portrayals by Edgcumb Pinchon and Martin Luis Guzman, whose The Eagle and the Serpent he takes to task for snobbery and irrelevance. He has himself interviewed many intimate companions of Villa and has literally traced Villa's activities over the face of the land. The book launches into Villa's life at the beginning of the four greatest years of his career which were Climaxed by his trying out the Presidential chair in Mexico City. Folded into the story are flashbacks revealing Villa's youth and many early years as a mere bandit who distributed largesse to the peons. Villa became head of his family at 12 and was pushed into bauditry at 17 when he killed a patrician who had raped Villa's sister. Ten years passed before he entered the Madero Revolution and became inspired by a vision of national land reform. Lansford paints Villa's flaws tellingly, and there is grim amusement in watching Villa dispense instant Justice with noose and pistol. The writing is rather tough-guy and suggests that Lansford has seen a little bloodshed himself.