Villa Lobos

Written by Michael Zimmer
Review by G. J. Berger

Big spenders have arrived to wager on the once-a-year horse races and prize fights in the south Texas town of Rio Largo. Knowing there’s lots of money in the hotel and bank vaults, Ben Hollister’s outlaw gang raids the town. The gang gets away with bags of money and hightails it for Mexico.

Sergeant Andrew Cade and seven U.S. Army troopers are escorting three hookers back to El Paso. Some enterprising soldiers had snuck them into a troop train bound for Fort Stockton but were found out. Cade’s men ride on horseback; a mule-pulled wagon carries the women. Hollister’s gang stumbles on Cade’s group and steals everything except two of the mules. Instead of turning back, Cade and his men trek after Hollister. A posse led by Rio Largo’s tough old sheriff is also chasing Hollister’s gang.

Hollister’s destination is the town of Villa Lobos—House of Wolves—across the Rio Grande. Sergeant Cade and Rio Largo’s sheriff both figure that’s where Hollister is headed. But the three groups don’t realize that even greater dangers await them. Villa Lobos, its humble farmers and herders, and the surrounding region are ruled by a small army of brutal outlaws and beset by Geronimo’s marauding warriors. A deadly multi-level grab for money, power, women and revenge unfolds.

Zimmer, an award-winning western author, knows the terrain, the weather, the weapons, the animals and the people of this forbidding land. The action—there’s lots of it—does not overpower the characters, their deeper motivations and honest feelings. Despite many quick point-of-view changes, the layered story flows fast and well. Zimmer’s prose and dialogue fit nicely. Villa Lobos is a solid addition to the post-Civil-War lore of the Southwest.