October's Pick 2006

The Devil’s Highway

Image representing book cover The Devil's Highway The Devil’s Highway
by Luis Alberto Urrea

In May 2001, a group of men attempted to cross the border into the desert of southern Arizona, through the deadliest region of the continent, a place called the Devil's Highway. Twenty-six people — fathers and sons, brothers and strangers — entered a desert so harsh and desolate that even the Border Patrol is afraid to travel through it. For hundreds of years, men have tried to conquer this land, and for hundreds of years the desert has stolen their souls and swallowed their blood.

Along the Devil's Highway, days are so hot that dead bodies naturally mummify almost immediately. And that May, 26 men went in. Twelve came back out.

Author Luis Alberto Urrea tells the story of this modern Odyssey in The Devil's Highway, a 2004 non-fiction account that takes us back to the small towns and unpaved cities south of the border, where the poor fall prey to dreams of a better life and the sinister promises of smugglers. We meet the men who will decide to make the crossing along the Devil's Highway and, on the other side of the border, the men who are ready to prevent them from reaching their destination. Urrea reveals exactly what happened when the 26 men headed into the wasteland, and how they were brutally betrayed by the one man they had trusted most. And from that betrayal comes the Inferno, a descent into a world of cactus spines, labyrinths of sand, mountains shaped like the teeth of a shark, and a screaming sun so intense that even at midnight the temperature had only dropped to 97 degrees. And yet, the men would not give up. The Devil's Highway is a story of astonishing courage and strength, of an epic battle of men against circumstance. Spectacularly written, The Devil's Highway is the great leap forward for one of America's finest writers, a trip to hell and back that is not only an astonishing piece of investigative reporting but also a literary tour de force.

The Devil's Highway won the 2004 Lannan Literary Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Pacific Rim Kiriyama Prize. The national best seller was also named a best book of the year by the Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Chicago Tribune, Kansas City Star and many other publications.

Photo of Luis Alberto Urrea About the Author

Luis Alberto Urrea is the author of this year’s One City One Book: San Francisco Reads selection, The Hummingbird’s Daughter. Read more about the author at: http://sfpl.org/news/ocob/authorbio.htm.

1993 New York Times Notable Book and Christopher Award winner: Across the Wire

1995 Colorado Book Award for poetry: The Fever of Being

1996 Included in the Best American Poetry collection; won a Western States Book Award in poetry for The Fever of Being

1999 American Book Award: Nobody’s Son: Notes from an American Life

2000 Latino Literature Hall of Fame: following the publication of Vatos

2002 Small-Press Book of the Year in fiction ( by the editors of ForeWord magazine): Six Kinds of Sky

2004 Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction and Border Regional Library Association’s Southwest Book of the Year: The Devil’s Highway

2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for general nonfiction and Kiriyama Pacific Rim Prize finalist for nonfiction:The Devil’s Highway

2006 Kiriyama Prize winner for fiction: The Hummingbird’s daughter; Urrea is now the first author to be recognized by the Kiriyama Prize judges for both fiction and nonfiction

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