God’s Middle Finger: Into the Lawless heart of the Sierra Madre by Richard Grant is a non-fiction book about the author’s “tour” of Mexico’s Sierra Madre region. Mr. Grant is a British journalist who came to the other side of the pond in search of strangeness and adventure. I think he found both.
Having had an “unfortunate fascination” with the Sierra Madre, Richard Grant decided to go the lawless frontier. Even though he was constantly told he was going to die, Mr. Grant ignored those warnings until this warning almost came true.
Marked by almost reckless disregard to his own well being, the book is filled with wonderful detail and dark humor which brings forward this uncharted country.
God’s Middle Finger: Into the Lawless heart of the Sierra Madre is a fast paced, sprawling adventure in a strange world which is closer then you think—and sometimes simply too close for comfort. While the book might be considered to be in the travel genre it is a glimpse into a lawless part of Mexico.
“The often mis-quoted line from Treasure of the Sierra Madre said by Gold Hat (played by Alfonso Bedoya) “Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges” comes to mind and, of course, makes an appearance in the book. The country is lawless and any type of badge or uniform carry little weight—however, an introduction by a local (which means he vouches for you with his life) does.
For the record, the line is: ‘Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and chinga tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.’”
The area has historically been a home to outlaws, cowboys, renegades, bands of Apache, and hermits. These days there are still many outcasts, Tarahumara Indians, Mormons, narcos, pot and opium farmers inhibit this forsaken land.
Throughout the book, Mr. Grant warns the reader time after time not to follow his footsteps. I’d listen to his advice as the prologue we meet the author as he tries to run away from coked out, drunken narcos who are hunting him for sport. The population of the area is a mix of tough, violent folks where the laws of the land seem not to have any affect. While guns are illegal in Mexico, everyone has one; murder is common; drunkenness, rape and revenge killing are all part of life. It is not uncommon for the women to be forced to marry their rapist if they get pregnant.
Even though the book deals with serious consequences of such a life, and a very dangerous trip the author makes — it is still funny and informative. The Tarahumara Indians–long distance runners who made a mockery out of the ultra marathon and refused to run a regular marathon because such short distances are only for women–caught my attention and had me laughing out loud.