Saturday, January 14, 2012

Southwest Scribes - Dog Tacos by Terry McChesney

Welcome to my new segment of Augmented Reality, where I will be reviewing local books, comics and other creative works from our home town of El Paso, TX. I’ve been collecting interesting and unique writings from all around El Paso, and I’ve been wanting to share my thoughts about them.

This book I’m about to review, Dog Tacos, by Terry McChesney, came to me through mail by the author. McChesney who has lived in Germanty as well as many different parts of the country, gained notoriety as the owner of “Skate City” in El Paso, a skate shop visited by many famous professional skaters. Now living in San Antonio, McChesney has written a book which takes place in the city of El Paso, and has traveled to El Paso during both EPCON conventions in order to promote the book. He contacted us because in both of his visits to EPCON he saw our cameras, but we were so busy with the convention in general that both times we overlooked his table. We agreed to review his book and also post an interview with him next time he was in the city.

We’ll get to the interview soon Mr. McChesney, but for now, here is my review of Dog Tacos.

The story centers around a 17 year old named Mike, an avid skateboarder, and his friends David and Cedric, as they skateboard downtown, cross the border, and eat at a Juarez taqueria affectionately referred to by Cedric as “Dog Tacos,” because of the three German Shepherds living in a pen above the restaurant sign. Along the way they run across gang members, get in trouble with immigration, get caught out past curfew and get involved with an incident involving two crashed cars that…well, I’d be spoiling the ending if I went any further.

One thing that stood out for me when I read this book was how familiar the setting of El Paso is within the story. I’ve read lots of books that took place with El Paso, and a lot of local writers have a somewhat nasty habit of romanticizing the city. If you were writing a book about a big major city like New York or Los Angeles, usually the author assumes you have locations and streets in mind, but with a lot the local literature I’ve read, often a street like Dyer is written as being “a menagerie of cracked cement floors, the lines of the jagged street etching a pattern like the branches of crooked trees.”

Dog Tacos mercifully has none of this; it goes about its narrative describing streets and landmarks as though they are there, making me feel more familiar with the settings than I would be if everything were spelled out for me. The way the three teenagers interact with one another as well as parents, girls, and gang members all have an authentic feel to them, and every single element of what they go through throughout their compact odyssey happens in an area of the city where it’s most believable.

It’s not a perfect book. At times it can be pretty literal in its descriptions, with one chapter ending with the declaration “They had no clue this night would change their lives forever.” Also, for a book written by a former participant in the professional skating scene, I was hoping that there would have been more emphasis on skating. The characters are skaters, and they use their boards to meaningful ends several times through the work, but there’s no real moment where any of them display any particular skill.

Terry McChesney shows he admires his El Paso audience by giving them a book written from their perspective, encapsulating the unique thrills of the city without making us feel like part of some elaborate rustic poem. Though the author’s interest in skateboarding has taken him far and wide, he illustrates that he truly considers El Paso to be his home, and if his life were like any of the three young teenagers in his novel, we can assume what he’s taken away from the city was something truly valuable. Pretty soon, McChesney will have a sequel to this book, along with plans to write other stories in the future. In the meantime though, you can get your own copy of Dog Tacos at or McChesney’s own website,

If you’d like your locally published or self-published book or comic reviewed on this segment, e-mail us at We will ask for a review copy, or if you cannot send us one, we will purchase a copy online at any nearby shop that has a copy available. We are all about supporting El Paso’s writing and art scene, and we look forward to hearing from you.

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