Villa LobosVilla Lobos, Michael Zimmer, Five Star Publishing, $25.95, Hardcover, Western Fiction.

Author Michael Zimmer has written an action-packed, fast-paced western novel that will appeal to readers thirsty for tough adventure tales about the Old West.  Sit back, read, and have fun with it, but don’t try to spend much time trying to figure out who all the characters are.  The names are many.

The story titled Villa Lobos, means “Village of Wolves” giving an apt description of where this story is headed.  You will find four groups of individuals riding south out of Texas and across the Rio Grande river where they are going to collide in a flurry of treachery, gun smoke, slashing knives, and dynamite.

The first group is made up of a gang of American outlaws who have just robbed a bank in Texas.  Some people were killed, the town is in shock, and the gang now heads south where they plan to divide the loot.  The leader is an ex-Confederate soldier named Hollister.

The second group consists of the American sheriff, leading a posse of adventuresome cowboys and townspeople who want their money back.  The sheriff is an old hand at law enforcement and trailing felons, but desert heat and whining store keepers not used to riding with a posse slow him down.

The third group presents a half dozen soldiers escorting three runaway prostitutes back to the town they came from.  The women are riding in a wagon, dressed as soldiers, and voicing more than their share of complaints as they plod along only to be ambushed and taken prisoners by the outlaw Hollister gang who seem to think the women will make valuable hostages in case the sheriff catches up.  The surprised soldiers are embarrassed, and decide to go after the outlaws to get the women back.

Now the story presents a fourth group made up of Mexican bandits, cutthroats, liars and thieves.  They are scalp hunters attacking Indian bands in Mexico for scalp bounty.  They also take children and young women prisoners to be traded or sold deep in the Mexican interior as household servants, prostitutes and slaves.  Known as “The Hunters” this outfit has not one individual that readers would care to-deal with.  They headquarter in Villa Lobos, giving the town its name, and through murder and fear, control everybody.  The leader is so vicious and corrupt we despise him instantly. (Remember The Magnificent Seven?)  The old priest in town is the only person who escapes the bandit leader’s wrath.

By now, you have guessed you will have lots of names to wend through, but still there is no clear-cut protagonist whom we can cheer for, worry about, or hope he or she will come out on top.  A character brave, respectable, wise, admirable, memorable, does not surface here.  While we wonder why we are even reading this book, we find we cannot put it down.  The action never stops, one shocking surprise after another finds us turning pages because we don’t want to miss anything.

The author has a good understanding of horses, guns, desert heat, the Spanish language, military procedure, historic Mexican villages, and the ability to put it on paper.  Without a memorable protagonist the plot is shaky, but if you like western adventure stories, Villa Lobos will entertain you to the last page

Publisher’s Note: The reviewer Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including the novel Lost Roundup, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 399, Unionville, New York 10988. www.silklabelbooks.corn

Filed under: Old West Book Reviews

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