Mexico’s Hidden Gold

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Reviewed by James Tipton

Good Reading

Some corrupt Mexican soldiers are also looking for the hidden gold, and so Kylie and Raven and their Yelapa companions have a lot more on their hands than they had bargained for.

R. D. Lyons is a long-time resident of Puerto Vallarta. Fittingly his first novel is set in the little coastal village of Yelapa, south of the much more sophisticated Puerto Vallarta, a village still accessible only by boat, and also in San Sebastian, the quaint old mining town in the mountains that rise behind Vallarta.

The characters are a band of expatriates, mostly men, who have left more conventional lives in the United States to live life closer to the bone and perhaps closer to their ideas of paradise. One of the two main characters is John Kylie, seeking a life of anonymity and meaning after committing corporate crimes that require his return to the states to appear before a Congressional investigation. He chooses, instead, to adopt la vida primitive – at least for the time being. Kylie, while watching the sun go down on a Vallarta beach, meets the other main character, who goes by the name “Raven,” who lives (and loves) in Yelapa, which he calls “Last piece of yesterday on the whole coast.”

I – being a sucker for both female expatriates and for Mexican women – was pleased, in the first few pages, to be introduced both to Priscilla and to Malin. Priscilla, a pleasantly aggressive single woman living in Yelapa, a day or two after Kylie’s arrival, waits for him on his veranda to tell him “This poor little gal’s heart is just a thumpin’,” while at the same time “reaching out for his hand and bringing it to her bosom. The Indian woman, Malin, is a “honey-hued Mexican lovely….” whose “elemental beauty was pure, the product of a conception so unadulterated that, though without doubt of this land, she was less seemingly of this time.” Malin is as direct as Priscilla in her desire to make Kylie “feel at home.” In a secluded bay, Malin tells him: “I will teach you the art of making love in a hammock.”

As Kylie, who is ashamed of his own life, reveals more and more of his current circumstances back in the States to Raven, Raven tells him “I always believed a man with a briefcase could steal more than a man with a gun any day,” but during the course of the novel Raven begins to have more and more genuine trust in Kylie. Speaking of another expatriate, Raven tells Kylie that “…he’s got a chance to get himself back. This is a good place for him, a forgiving place. We do a lot of that for each other here: forgiving.” Even though Kylie wants to convince Raven he accepted his invitation to come to Yelapa only “for relaxation,” Raven sees through him, and tells him “Most people here are running from something. I give ’em credit. Anybody who’s got the courage to try on a new life deserves the chance as far as I’m concerned.”

Raven begins to share his own demons with Kylie. Raven had been to West Point, eventually made bird colonel and, in a tour in Kosovo, lost ten of his men in one morning “and discovered a mass grave that afternoon. Ethnic cleansing. Women and children mostly. The women had been tortured and raped. Little girls, too. Next day we ambushed the bastards that did it. I killed a number of them in hand to hand.” Raven also “cut out their commander’s heart after I killed him,” and that put Raven on “the fast track to early retirement.”

As Kylie and Raven begin to bond, Raven begins to trust Kylie with his secret obsession: to find the gold stolen by Pancho Villa during the Mexican Revolution. In May 1920, when President Carranza had left the Mexican capital by train, he carried the nation’s rich treasure – in gold – with him. Villa, expert at robbing trains, subdued the soldiers, loaded the gold onto horse-drawn farm wagons, and hauled it to Sierra Madre del Sur, near the southern Pacific coast. There PanchoVilla hid the gold that he intended to recover later. Raven tells Kylie, “He was going to get back into politics and he had the mightiest campaign chest in history. That’s why he was assassinated.”

Some corrupt Mexican soldiers are also looking for the hidden gold, and so Kylie and Raven and their Yelapa companions have a lot more on their hands than they had bargained for. In the process Kylie has the chance to prove he is a decent human being (and a man of interest to the ladies independent of corporate status and power and money).

I like reading books by expatriate authors, even books that do have occasional flaws, and I particularly like those that are set in places that I know and love. Pick up a copy of R. D. Lyons’ Mexico’s Hidden Gold and settle back into that comfortable old hammock and begin to fantasize….

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Published or Updated on: May 31, 2007 by James Tipton © 2008
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