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God's Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre
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God's Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  1,162 ratings  ·  222 reviews
Twenty miles south of the Arizona-Mexico border, the rugged, beautiful Sierra Madre mountains begin their dramatic ascent. Almost 900 miles long, the range climbs to nearly 11,000 feet and boasts several canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon. The rules of law and society have never taken hold in the Sierra Madre, which is home to bandits, drug smugglers, Mormons, cave-dwell...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published March 4th 2008 by Free Press (first published 2008)
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WOW! I really had no idea about the Sierra Madre, what it was like there and how lawless and crazy it really is.
This book was so good, I'm going to have to go out and read everything Richard Grant has written. I really couldn't put it down.
Every little detail of every little town he was in was truly fascinating (at least to me anyways). I want to hear more about the Sierra Madra; however, I think to get any deeper, you would probably have to die.
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
December 31, 2011 My recent reading about the border reminded me of this book, which tells about what happens in Mexico long before the drugs get anywhere near the border.

The author had a fascination with the lawless and very dangerous Sierra Madre region of northern Mexico. This area is ruled by competing narcotraficantes(drug traffickers) who produce staggering amounts of marijuana, opium, and cocaine. Law enforcement is so corrupt that there's no way to stop the problem.

Grant rather foolishly...more
Nancy Oakes
You know that a) this is going be good and b) this is going to be different than anything you've ever read when the opening chapter finds the author being pursued by 2 crazy men with guns in the middle of the night out in the wilds of Durango, Mexico. Naturally, after you read that chapter, with a cliffhanger for an ending, you have to wonder how he got into this predicament and you're hooked. This book just didn't let up. Grant decides that he wants to traverse the Sierra Madre Occidental, a mo...more
Apr 10, 2008 John rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: guys who like guns and readers who like edgy travel writing.
This is an engrossing, depressing gross-out of a book, and my feelings about it are wildly dissonant. In brief, it relates the author's travels in Mexico's Sierra Madre mountain range, an extremely large, rugged, and dangerous place, much of it bereft of any rule of law (unless the convenience of drug lords can be called that). The people who live there have such punishing lives that their grasp of reality has been twisted out of true and much of their magical thinking abets their misery. Everyo...more
I have to admit that I knew nothing about the Sierra Madre before I started reading this book. And now that I've finished, I understand more about the reasons behind why many Mexicans flee to the USA. The author of this book is a writer from London who charmed his way through the Sierra Madre in order to write about it. He said that he "began to enjoy that edgy, adrenaline-hyped feeling that comes with pushing your luck in a place you don't belong, getting by on your wits and charm and trying to...more
Patrick Gibson
Dec 04, 2008 Patrick Gibson rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people avoiding Bill Bryson
Shelves: road_trip, the_west
Let’s face it. I bought the book mainly because I thought the title was clever and funny. It was also set in my back yard (sort of). My buddy and I often take road trips to the Mexican border. We cross occasionally to have little adventures (mainly drinking in Juarez) so I was even more intrigued by what this book might offer.
It’s violent – but nothing like Cormac Mcarthy’s works of fiction. Then again Mr. Grant, I doth thinketh thou exaggerates enough to verge on fiction! Despite the overly dra...more
Jocelyn Guite
Fascinating, disturbing, vivid....appreciated this first-hand perspective of this complicated region. North Americans should have an understanding of what is so near.
Paul Pessolano
Richard Grant is an Englishman who has had a fascination with the Sierra Madre mountains. The Sierra Madre is twenty miles south of the Arizona-Mexican border. It was the location for the famous Humphrey Bogart file, "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre".

This is the story of going into the mountains, sometimes with guides, sometimes not. After reading the book one wonders why anyone would venture into this lawless land. The area is controlled by drug dealers, and if there is any semblence of law, i...more
God's Middle Finger belongs to the class of books I find most valuable: books that have pushed my self to the point where determining an angle to approach them becomes an exercise in recognizing my limitations.

To attempt an objective report on the words between the covers: Richard Grant, a white native of England has written about his travels in and attempts to explore the communities of Mexico's Sierra Madre mountains. This includes descriptions of the food, clothing, livelihoods, attitudes an...more
Nancy Perl, Seattle's celebrity librarian, has a method for deciding when to abandon a book, and for someone like me that's a serious act, akin to betrayal, but here it is - up until the age of 50 you give the author 50 pages, and if (s)he hasn't gotten to you by then you can let the book go. For every year past 50, you give the author one less page, so by the time you reach 99, if the author hasn't grabbed you on page one, you can feel free to drop it, (it will probably slip out of your hand as...more
Richard Grant has written the kind of travel book I like -- attention to detail, crazy characters, historical backgound, and an easy-to-read writing style. If the Sierra Madre were a more appealing place, this book would make me want to go there. It's really not all that far away, after all.

One of Grant's skills as a writer is his ability to write so warmly about the beauty of the area he travels in, while at the same time juxtaposing it against the brutality of living in an anarchic drug-produc...more
This is what travel writing should be. The Sierra Madre are a place you shouldn't go and people tell Richard Grant that constantly. He ignores their advice and goes in, even sometimes on his own which is a big time no-no. But he doesn't make it out like he's some bad ass adventurer. Instead, he points out how niave and sort of sick he is for wanting doing what he is doing. The places and people are insane but he presents them in an endearing way without judgement, unless of course the thing is s...more
I am not really sure what the author intended with this book. It winds itself up nicely but never seems to go anywhere? The history of the SM is an interesting one. It's obviously a hard life and one that the addition of a corrupt society overrun with drug lords doesn't make any easier.

The author tries to investigate the SM region of Mexico and in doing so takes his life in his own hands. Some of the characters he meet along the way are interesting but the book seems rushed and incomplete. I fe...more
Pat Loughery
A thrilling page turner of an adventure novel. You learn the history and current state of north central Mexico's Sierra Madre mountain range as the author tries to travel its spine in order to see if it is really as dangerous as you have heard. It feels like a mix of Sebastian Junger and Ernest Hemingway. It's hard to tell if the overwhelming narco-traffic content is embellished, but I sense that it's not. It certainly gives more perspective on the nature of the drug trade coming from Mexico to...more
Gain further insight into the surreal of Mexico and the erosion of native culture while drugs and violence escalate the embrace of “modern life”.

Highlight’s include:
1. A live version of “The Most Dangerous Game” hosted by beer drinking, coke snorting hillbillies with the author as the unfortunate "guest".
2. Beer drinking, cigarette smoking Indians beating North American runners in a marathon.
3. Religious celebration centered on drinking beer. [my favorite:]

Recommended for those that grew up in t...more
I believe a quote from the author will suffice:

"I drove out of the mountains and then north across the plains and deserts and I didn't stop driving for fifteen hours until I was within striking distance of the U.S. border. I was ready to write about celebrity bathroom fixtures for a living, designer footwear, what your window treatments say about you. Some other fool could go into Sinaloa. I never wanted to set foot in the Sierra Madre again. The mean drunken hillbillies who lived up there could...more
Very good book about this crazy english dude who decides to go off by himself into the sierra madre mountains in mexico, where a good percentage of the people are drunken, homicidal drug dealers. not my idea of a good time, and it almost gets him killed. the sale of drugs from mexico to the us is a $50 billion a year business and 90% of all cocaine in the us comes from mexico. it's quite funny, in a twisted kind of way...these mexican drug lords still live in shacks but have $40,000 chevy pickup...more
Gary Hoffman
Although this book is well written, I found it frustrating to read. It's the story of the author making a lot of bad decisions, seeking out bad people and dangerous situations, and finding them. He seems to have survived due mostly to luck.

The author's intent is to visit some of the worst places in Mexico, infested by drug cartels and similar ne'er-do-wells, places a writer is definitely not welcome, and see what happens. He doesn't do this out of a journalistic sense of righting wrongs; it's mo...more
Part of the book's title is "Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre". And most definitely, the tale that Richard Grant tells of his travels in through the canyons and valleys of those convoluted mountains is about lawlessness. It's also about how people survive, prosper, fight, die, hurt one another, cling to traditions and to family ties.

The author weaves some history and almost tourist info into the book (e.g. Copper Canyon) and there are bits about tribes that intrigue, but mostly the bo...more
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This is a horrible, horrible place. Richard Grant seems like an asshole, but at least he likes puppies, which is more than you can say about anyone who lives in this horrible, horrible place. Everyone who thinks pot is just a harmless drug should read this book and get to know the horrible, horrible puppy-haters who are growing your weed. Do you want dead puppies on your conscience, pothead? Didn't think so...

It is a little sobering to realize that one of the most dangerous places on earth is only 250 miles from where I live. The Sierra Madres is a place of legends and nightmares. Richard Grant enters the mountains feet first and brain last yet survives to tell the story. One of the most harrowing adventure travel books I've ever read.
Whoa. - Travel in the Sierra Madre is not for the feint of heart. It is foolhardy and usually fatal. I am so glad that this man survived to write about it because it is a thoroughly entertaining wild ride from the safety of my armchair.
one of the best travel books by one of the best modern travel writers, IMHO. Despite the North American via Britain perspective that at times bleeds into his work (& really, how can it not?), the author offers a balanced, insightful, compassionate & intriguing story of interesting (& some downright f'g scary) people & places...& contemporaneously confides in his readers his own inward journey of sorts - an explorer's post-confessional (although i appreciate that the more cyni...more
This book is probably even more enjoyable having read it while in Mexico, but anyone that's interested in things south of the border and adventure will probably enjoy it. The summary seems to be that Mexico is basically one giant drug farm and that it's so messed up and integrated that there's pretty much no solution. It confirms and strengthens most of the usual fears about Mexico which, while perhaps a bummer, is also likely fairly accurate - especially in the regions the book takes place. Whe...more
The one-phrase rundown: this book was on sale for nine bucks and that’s a travesty.

I blasted through Grant’s travelogue quickly, finding his observations oddly reminiscent of my own. I squandered some particularly mis-spent youth on the Texas/Mexico border, watching the Sierra Madre oriental (east of Grant’s travels) hover in the hazy distance (west Texas – where mountains float and rainbows wait). I interacted with some unsavory characters and I wondered if everything I heard about the Madre’s...more
I hate giving ratings, because to say I liked The Almost Moon as much as I liked this book would be erroneous, but I don't know that the phrase "really liked" would be one I'd associate with this either.

So nevermind the stars - I found the subject of this book to be utterly fascinating. Regardless of the extreme violence making headlines these days, I love Mexico and am intrigued by its people and culture. I've never been to the Sierra Madre, though, and this book made me realize that, while fa...more

This book was fascinatingly terrifying. I’ve always been interested in Latin America and its history, culture and politics so when a friend told me about this book I knew I had to read it!
The book’s first chapter grabs you and pulls you in as it appears to be a real-life version of The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell. The book then goes back to the beginning where Grant, a British reporter and writer, explains how he first got interested in the Sierra Madre and all the warnings he receiv...more
Well written, light, entertaining and quick read on the history and current (2008) state of the Mexican Sierra Madre mountain range. According to the book, the Sierra Madre Range historically has been so remote and rugged as to provide a sanctuary for anyone trying to avoid the government of Mexico.

Historically this included Apaches, Mexican Revolutionaries, American fugitives and Polygamist Mormans. In the current times drug dealers and growers, and an underclass of mountain peoples with a cod...more
Vince Darcangelo

This review originally appeared in the ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS

God's Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre
Vince Darcangelo , Special to the Rocky

Published March 21, 2008 at 12:05 a.m.

God's Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre

* Nonfiction. By Richard Grant. Free Press, 277 pages. Grade: A-

Plot in a nutshell: You'd have to be a little bit crazy to travel alone through Mexico's Sierra Madre mountain range, an inhospitable...more
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Richard Grant is a freelance British travel writer based in Arizona. He was born in Malaysia, lived in Kuwait as a boy and then moved to London. He went to school in Hammersmith and received a history degree from University College, London. After graduation he worked as a security guard, a janitor, a house painter and a club DJ before moving to America where he lived a nomadic life in the American...more
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