The Bullet Swallower

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The Bullet Swallower book cover

by Elizabeth Gonzalez James

Publication date: January 23, 2024
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Paperback: 272 Pages

Publisher Description

A dazzling magical realism western in the vein of Cormac McCarthy meets Gabriel García Márquez, The Bullet Swallower follows a Mexican bandido as he sets off for Texas to save his family, only to encounter a mysterious figure who has come, finally, to collect a cosmic debt generations in the making.

In 1895, Antonio Sonoro is the latest in a long line of ruthless men. He’s good with his gun and is drawn to trouble but he’s also out of money and out of options. A drought has ravaged the town of Dorado, Mexico, where he lives with his wife and children, and so when he hears about a train laden with gold and other treasures, he sets off for Houston to rob it—with his younger brother Hugo in tow. But when the heist goes awry and Hugo is killed by the Texas Rangers, Antonio finds himself launched into a quest for revenge that endangers not only his life and his family, but his eternal soul.

In 1964, Jaime Sonoro is Mexico’s most renowned actor and singer. But his comfortable life is disrupted when he discovers a book that purports to tell the entire history of his family beginning with Cain and Abel. In its ancient pages, Jaime learns about the multitude of horrific crimes committed by his ancestors. And when the same mysterious figure from Antonio’s timeline shows up in Mexico City, Jaime realizes that he may be the one who has to pay for his ancestors’ crimes, unless he can discover the true story of his grandfather Antonio, the legendary bandido El Tragabalas, The Bullet Swallower.

A family saga that’s epic in scope and magical in its blood, and based loosely on the author’s own great-grandfather, The Bullet Swallower tackles border politics, intergenerational trauma, and the legacies of racism and colonialism in a lush setting and stunning prose that asks who pays for the sins of our ancestors, and whether it is possible to be better than our forebears.

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About the author

Elizabeth Gonzalez James is the author of the novel Mona at Sea and the chapbook Five Conversations About Peter Sellers. Originally from South Texas, Elizabeth now lives with her family in Massachusetts.

Read more about Elizabeth ON HER WEBSITE


The Bullet Swallower crackles with the whizz-bang action that any tale of gunslingers demands, but it also digs deep into the dark corners of [the genre’s] mythology…Rich in lyrical language, gripping action, and enchanting magical realism, the novel is a heartening entry into the future of westerns.”Esquire

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“Mesmerizing. . .wildly entertaining. . .Gonzalez is a great storyteller, bringing both Texas and Mexico to the page with a mix of blood and magic. . . A must-read.”The Boston Globe

“[A] magical realist tour de force. . .remarkable.”BookPage (starred review)

“Gonzalez laces magical realism into her vivid epic of the Texas-Mexico border and the violence that shapes a family for generations. . .The novel’s striking centerpiece follows Antonio and fellow desperado Peter Ainsley as they cut a swath across the border badlands [with] blazing guns and rich, Butch and Sundance–esque banter. . .Readers will find this a refreshingly modern recasting of the classic western.”Publishers Weekly

“The Bullet Swallower
 is slyly ambitious, striving to pull off a trick nearly as tough as surviving a bullet to the head: to deliver old-fashioned, satisfying storytelling that critiques itself, insisting we move past those old fashions.”Los Angeles Times




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