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The Ways of Wolfe: A Border Noir

Review

The Ways of Wolfe: A Border Noir

You must read James Carlos Blake’s books. I do not understand why this gentleman is not monstrously huge on the literary front. It might have something to do with most of his novels being historical fiction, but every page, every paragraph, every book is a gem. His latest offering is no exception.

THE WAYS OF WOLFE continues Blake’s multigenerational saga that began with COUNTRY OF THE BAD WOLFES and continued with THE RULES OF WOLFE and THE HOUSE OF WOLFE. The Wolfes, a family operating on both sides of the United States-Mexico border and both sides of the law, are very loosely based on Blake’s own family, a bit of a homage that lends itself to the very heady air of realism that permeates these books. THE WAYS OF WOLFE takes place prior to the events in THE HOUSE OF WOLFE and is focused on Axel Prince Wolfe.

"...a dark, beautiful slice of border noir that continues Blake’s multifaceted exploration of the Wolfe family."

Axel is a promising college student when the book opens in 1984, but as the story unfolds, it is clear that he is more interested in moving into the criminal enterprises of his family. His outlaw career is short-lived, however, in part because of his association with what he refers to as “wayward companions,” that being his friend, Billy. Billy and Axel are drawn into a robbery scheme with a third loser. The job quickly goes chest-up, and in the ensuing chaos Axel is left behind by Billy. Axel does stand-up time, never turning evidence on his friend, even as the decades roll by with Axel losing his wife and daughter.

In 2008, with years of his sentence still to serve, Axel is given an opportunity to escape with a young gangbanger. Blake hits a new stratosphere with his description of the escape and its aftermath. Let me stop for a moment here and tell you that it is impossible to predict what is going to happen or how it will take place. Yes, I’m revealing a bit here and there, but I assure you that the journey is just as thrilling as the destination. Indeed, Axel effectuates his escape, and enjoys some respect and succor as a result, but two things eat at him. One is whatever happened to Billy and the small fortune they acquired during the course of the robbery. The second is Axel’s daughter, Jessie (who plays a prominent role in THE HOUSE OF WOLFE), who has been all but lost to him during his prison term. Axel decides one pivotal night to resolve both of the trying issues from his past, with results that will ripple into the future.

I am favorably predisposed to border and desert noir, but James Carlos Blake is in a class all by himself. His characters are instantly memorable within a few words of introduction, his sceneries perfectly described to their most important nuances, his plots twisting and turning in their unpredictability from beginning to end. THE WAYS OF WOLFE did not end in the manner in which I had expected. I had to read the last few pages a couple of times to make sure I understood it correctly. Let me say again that this was actually true of the entire book as well as the others in the series. Each of Blake’s novels is laid out in such a manner that one can never correctly predict with consistency what is going to occur next.

The result is a dark, beautiful slice of border noir that continues Blake’s multifaceted exploration of the Wolfe family. I hope that the series goes on forever, or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on September 29, 2017

The Ways of Wolfe: A Border Noir
by James Carlos Blake

  • Publication Date: September 5, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Noir, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Mysterious Press
  • ISBN-10: 0802125778
  • ISBN-13: 9780802125774