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The vexed issue of illegal immigration is goosed in this raucous, hammy odyssey. Rico, a self-proclaimed gonzo journalist and "soft, white... middle-class American" with no Spanish, set out to portray the Mexican migrant experience by crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, and spends the book searching the border's 2,000-mile length for a safe, convenient place to do so. Such does not exist along a frontier controlled on one side by the U.S. Border Patrol and on the other by drug cartels and gang-affiliated coyotes, and Rico's quest eventually reduces him to an almost authentic state of semicriminal desperation. Along the way, he debates and mocks ideologues on all sides, from nutty Minutemen border vigilantes to naïve open-border activists. The book is more about writing a book about the border than it is about the border. Rico himself, with his exaggerated angst, is always the showy central character, and many of his encounters-parading his Minutemen T-shirt before offended Mexican-Americans, soliciting coyotes in a Mexican strip-joint-are transparently staged. Still, when he takes the spotlight off himself, he conveys an arresting panorama of an out-of-control borderland full of seething rancor and foolish dreams. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.