For a book lover, it’s a real treat to plunge into the work of a ‘new to me’ author. It’s not exactly good for the TBR, but it offers the reader a new perspective and, sometimes, a solid back catalogue to discover. So I’m happy to participate in the New (to Me, Anyway) Author meme hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise. Psst…as you’ll be there, anyway, do check out this excellent blog. Great reviews await you!!
For this quarter, I admit I’m cheating (just a little), because I’m highlighting the work of Paco Ignacio Taibo II, and I have read a little of his non-fiction. But, I hadn’t read his series featuring Mexico City PI Hector Belascoarán Shayne until early this year. So, that counts, doesn’t it, Kerrie?
Originally from Spain, Taibo II and his family emigrated to Mexico when he was a boy, and most of his life has been spent there. As well as being one of Mexico’s most prolific authors, Taibo II is also a social activist whose work reflects his anti-fascist/pro-union views. He’s known for being one of the founders of the neopolicial sub-genre of crime fiction – crime fiction that addresses social issues. As Franklin Rodriquez has pointed out, Taibo II defines the neopolicial
‘… as a mechanism of denunciation and reflection about social and political problems.’
Certainly, that’s what we see in his Hector Belascoarán Shayne novels.
Belascoarán Shayne is a half-Basque/half-Irish independent detective who makes his first appearance in Days of Combat/Días de Combate. In that novel, he leaves his wife and his ‘safe’ job as a factory foreman to embark on a career as a PI, a decision that seems on the surface to be rash at best. Then, a series of murders is committed by a killer who calls himself the Cervo. Since the police are inefficient, corrupt, and not to be trusted, Belasoaran Shayne decides to try to catch the killer himself. Slowly, he builds a reputation as a man who can get things done, and who can be trusted. I haven’t been able to find a good English translation of that novel. So, for those interested in meeting Belascoarán Shayne in English, I invite you to try An Easy Thing, the second in that series.
Belascoarán Shayne is well aware of the corruption around him. He’s rather philosophical about it, and does what he can to make things right, if I may put it that way. He knows that his work isn’t going to really change things in Mexico. Like his creator, he’s politically-minded, and sees what’s going on around him all too clearly. But he does what he can.
The series has a touch of the surreal to it – just a bit like magic realism, although (at least for me), more prosaic. It’s set very distinctly in Mexico (mostly Mexico City), and shows the reader quite a lot about the social and political realities of that country.
Want to know more about Paco Ignacio Taibo II? Wikipedia has some information here.
Want to know more about Days of Combat/Días de Combate (in Spanish)? Check it out here.
Want to know more about An Easy Thing? It’s here.
Want to know more about Hector Belascoarán Shayne? There’s an interesting little writeup here.
*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Carlos Santana (it features the lovely voice of Michelle Branch).