Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Guest Review: The Chupacabra by Stephen Randel (3/5)

By Natasha Post

The Chupacabra: A Borderline Crazy Tale of Coyotes, Cash & Cartels by Stephen Randel is a dark comedy about two very different men whose paths wind up crossing over the most peculiar of things – a “chupacabra” corpse.  This is Randel’s debut novel.
He is called El Barquero. He makes his trade along the border, smuggling guns and killing without remorse. As he faces his one last mission, his perfect plan is unwittingly foiled by Avery, a paranoid loner obsessed with global conspiracy theories who spends most of his time crafting absurd and threatening letters to anyone who offends him. That means pretty much everyone. 

What unfolds is a laugh out loud dark comedy of madcap adventure stretching from Austin to the West Texas border featuring a lunatic band of civilian border militia, a group of bingo-crazed elderly ladies (one packing a pistol nearly as long as her arm), a murderous and double-crossing cartel boss, a burned-out hippy, and a crotchety retired doctor and his pugnacious French bulldog. Read it to believe it.
The Chupacabra had a rocky start for me.  The overly long sentences had my brain pausing for a breath – even though I wasn’t reading out loud – and the scene changes were a little hard to keep up with at first.  I was a bit overwhelmed by how quickly so many different characters were introduced, and how much back story came with each of them.  There were several scenes that weren’t really necessary to drive the story forward.  For a while I was scratching my head, hoping to understand what one thing had to do with the other, and to be honest it wasn’t until well into the part two that the pieces started to fit together.

It’s definitely a wild (and sometimes confusing) ride through this book.   Randel’s strong points are in his vivid description and the fluent way that dialogue flows between characters.  The characters interaction feels natural – which is an accomplishment considering how crazy most of them are.  Many of the characters are unique with thriving personalities that don’t fall flat on the page, but there were a few scenes that took away from the book because they didn’t contribute to it.  While it may have been humorous, witty, or given some background for a character, it was more decorative, having nothing to do with the actual plot line.  The filler scenes were entertaining, especially Avery’s obnoxious and outlandish letters as well as Pearl’s antics, but so many of the characters in this book had little to do with the climax at the end. 

The blurb on the back of the book drew me in with the descriptions of El Barquero and Avery, but it’s hard to realize that they are the two main protagonists within the story as so much else going on.  In my opinion Randel displayed too many characters – which with as fleshed out as they were they could have their own story.  Taking away some of the excess and clutter would help to enhance the story.  The author tried to take several different stories and intertwine them together.  As it is, while Randel has shown he can tell a comedic story, The Cupacabra falls a few threads short of a flawless weave. 

That being said, I give Cupacabra three stars.  One for unique characterization, two for Avery’s hysterical letter writing capabilities, and a three because if you can get past the unwarranted, excess scenes, the story itself is well written and highly intriguing.

For more information on Stephen Randel you can visit his website, stephenrandel.com.


About the Reviewer:  Tasha has a voracious appetite for books. They are commonly found overflowing on her shelves, littered around her house, in the car, at the work place, and just to be safe, Tasha always has her Nook stashed somewhere on her person. Besides reading, she’s an avid writer. Never wanting to be without pen and paper when inspiration strikes (as it so often likes to smack her in the face when she’s away from her desk) she can always be seen with a mini notebook and pen attached to her wrist. A wife and mother of two four legged pups, Natasha not only works full time, but she is also a full time college student working towards an AA and then to dual majoring in English and Multimedia Journalism.  You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or her blog, Wannabe Wild Writer.  


  1. Thanks for the honest review of The Chupacabra. It sounds different. It's been a long time since I thought about a Chupacabra...lol. They used to get 'sighted' all the time years ago :)