By Sam Hawken
Published in 2014 by Serpent’s Tail.
Tequila Sunset
Reviewed by Kirsche Romo.
We’ve all seen the scary stories in the news about horrific violence taking place in towns along the Texas-Mexico border. In Tequila Sunset, Sam Hawken brings these tales to life, convincingly capturing the perils of living at the El Paso, Texas–Juarez Mexico border. Mr. Hawken successfully paints a portrait of fear and danger caused by the Mexican drug cartels in Ciudad Juarez and the Mexican-American gangs in El Paso.
Felipe “Flip” Morales, a young man from El Paso, returns to his hometown after having served a four-year prison sentence. While incarcerated, he’d joined the deadly Azteca gang—a lifetime commitment. However, Flip was also an informant for the prison warden, relaying details of Azteca’s dealings, both inside and outside the prison walls.
Christina Salas and Bob Robinson, detectives in the El Paso PD’s gang unit, are building evidence against the Azteca’s El Paso leader, Jose Martinez, in hopes to secure his conviction, and end his rise in the underworld’s echelon.
On the other side of the Mexican border, in the neighboring town of Juarez, police detective Matias Segura is an expert on Azteca gang activity, and has become numbed to the constant army presence in the city, and the frequent shootings which erupt at any given time on any given street.
After arriving in El Paso, Flip is approached by local Azteca leader Jose Martinez, who gradually lures him into the Azteca fold.  Flip must consistently walk a thin line between honesty and honor, and being an Azteca. But at what price?
Hawken effectively captures Flip’s constant anxiety and fear from trying to keep his family safe while also pacifying the Aztecas.  He entwines each character’s story with their home lives and families, depicting how the threat of harm, both overt and subtle, touches everyone.
Hawken’s straightforward writing style keeps the action moving. Having a very personal knowledge of the Texas Hispanic community, I found the dialogue to be very convincing. I looked forward to opening the book every night to see what would happen next, and how the story would end.
I enjoyed reading Tequila Sunset, and recommend it.
K.L. Romo is a writer who lives with her family in Duncanville, Texas. She is currently querying agents to represent her newly completed novel – FROM GRACE I FALL – about a middle-aged empty-nester who’s suddenly transported back to 1907 Dallas, seeing the world through the eyes of a reformed prostitute.

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