Book Review: Juarez Dance by Sam Hawken

12 Feb


Juarez Dance by Sam Hawken,  is a good fun read, but I’m still not really sure why.

It is the story of a lone wolf hit man, who lives in and loves Mexico. He kills someone at the beginning and then things go real slow for a real long time – seriously. The first half of the book just follows Cooper around day-by-day and minute-by-minute as he protects a wealthy and powerful Mexico drug boss. And this goes on for pages and pages, without much happening and without much of a plot kicking in. Plus, we don’t really get to know Cooper all that well through all of this – the guy is pretty simple and dull. But, what was strange to me while reading all of this –was that I was never bored and always fascinated.

How is that possible? As a writer and as a reader of crime, noir, mysteries and thrillers I am a big proponent of lots of plot, lots of action and of getting things rolling right away. Put the character in jeopardy from page one and then keep bringing on one horrible thing after another.  In Juarez Dance chapter one is cool but there is no real jeopardy or much at stake for the guy for about the next hundred pages.

Now, to be sure, the second half of the book is full of action and plot and the stakes get very very high. There is a lot of sex, romance, violence, revenge, and there are many suspenseful chase scenes. Everything is eventually all tied up, and the ending is just right, and very satisfying.

But what kept me in the book? What kept me reading until things got really intense and exciting? Like I said, I don’t really know. Usually I give up on such books early on, and I remember while reading Juarez Dance thinking, “Wow, this is so great and wow, nothing is happening.”

So, I don’t know. I really don’t, but I guess just the day-to-day life of Cooper as written by Hawken was somehow engaging. There is a lot of detail about Juarez, Mexico and Cooper’s life there and it is interesting in a travelogue kind of way. And, there is a certain rhythm to the writing that is appealing and that must help keep the reader interested. And, maybe, Hawken somehow just very subtly keeps a little bit of tension going, a little bit of a feeling of impending doom? That’s got to be the secret.

I highly recommend this book. I do.

I read Juarez Dance on my Kindle and, like many books I have been reading lately I’ve got to ask, “What is with all the typos?” I mean it. This is a high quality professionally-written book and it is full of mistakes, mostly dropped prepositions or, just the wrong word, like from for form, that sort of thing. Now, it is perfectly okay for a DIY blog like this one to be rife with typos, but a book like Juarez Dance? It is just not right. And, I’m a horrible proofreader myself (I was once fired from a job as a proofreader) so for every mistake I noticed there has to be a least two or three more.

What is going on? Was it self published (and I just can’t tell) and he didn’t hire a copy editor and/or a proofreader? Was the independent publisher just not thorough? Does anyone know? It is quite baffling.

11 Responses to “Book Review: Juarez Dance by Sam Hawken”

  1. samhawken February 12, 2013 at 9:56 am #

    Thanks for the review! I’m glad you were able to get something out of the book despite its unconventional structure.

    As for the typos: there is no excuse. Between an editor, two proofreaders and me there should have been none for you to find, so I’m beyond mortified. Luckily there are ways I can correct the file and I will do so at the earliest opportunity. Of course, it’s ME doing the proofing again, so I might just miss the errors on this pass, as well.

  2. tssharp February 12, 2013 at 10:08 am #

    Have you read The Dead Women of Juarez by Sam Hawken? I really enjoyed it, so I grabbed Juarez Dance too, which I also liked. As for the typos – I’m glad I’m not the only one who noticed these. No spelling mistakes as such, just missing/added words and stuff like that. If it was self-published it would be quite easy to upload an amended version, otherwise you’re at the mercy of the publisher I guess.

    • samhawken February 12, 2013 at 10:19 am #

      Tom, I am on the typo problem even as we speak. I’m putting aside my work in progress specifically to address this issue. There should be NO errors in anything I release — or at least that’s the goal — and I’ll try this time to make sure I don’t miss anything this time.

      • samhawken February 12, 2013 at 10:19 am #

        And then I have typos in my reply to your comment. Clearly I suck at this.

        • Mike Monson February 12, 2013 at 10:22 am #

          Sam you are a writer not a proofreader 🙂 You shouldn’t have to be responsible but I guess self publishing has that risk. I bet a pro proofreader would be really expensive for a novel.

          • samhawken February 12, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

            It really is a question of where you cut corners, and this was one where I thought I wouldn’t need pro help beyond editing, so I used a couple of volunteers. And you’re right: it IS very expensive to hire an honest-to-goodness proofreader, just as it’s expensive — almost prohibitively so, as I discovered — to hire an editor. Trying to do this stuff on a limited budget definitely gives you an appreciation for what publishing houses do for their authors.

            • Mike Monson February 12, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

              Yes, I bet people like Michael Connolly and James Lee Burke, etc. get their books copy edited line for line over and over again by more than one editor so that the final book is almost more of a collaboration. I bet in some cases best selling books are good almost as much because of the editorial team as it is because of the skill of the writer. And then, of course, several highly competent proofreaders go over the galleys and the thing doesn’t get printed until they ok it.

      • tssharp February 13, 2013 at 2:27 am #

        Don’t worry about it. I did consider mentioning them to you when I came across them, but then I thought it might make me look like a jerk. ‘Hey, I found a mistake!’ ‘Look, I found another one!’.

        I noticed a few errors in a horror novel I was reading a while back, published by HarperCollins, so you’re not the only one. I’m not sure if I’m more alert to them, or whether there has been a drop in proofreading standards, but I’ve definitely seen more in the last few years.

        • samhawken February 13, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

          Tom, you wouldn’t have been a jerk at all. I’m actually very happy Mike called me out because otherwise who knows how many copies would have been circulating with those errors?

          Now that it’s all corrected (hopefully), I can put these dark days behind me.


  1. Book review: Broken Glass Waltzes, by Warren Moore | Mike Monson - June 20, 2013

    […] I normally do not like: it took forever to get to the plot … the crime.But, like with Juarez Dance by Sam Hawken, the book is so interesting that I didn’t care. So, yes, I prefer it when a crime novel […]

  2. Review: Camaro Run, by Sam Hawken | Mike Monson - July 1, 2013

    […] I reviewed Hawken’s Juarez Dance back in February and I loved it too but I went on and on about how surprised I was that not much […]

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