El Cid: A literary hero’s literary hero

El Cid: A literary hero’s literary hero

Everybody has heard of Don Quixote. The image of the fictional tilter-at-windmills is everywhere in Mexico, which has long adopted Spanish literature and legends as its own. But when I went looking for the literary hero for my fictional Mexican hero in THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY, I needed someone more, ahem, successful than Don Quixote.

El Cid movie posterMovie star

El Cid was a character I’d seen mentioned by Mexican authors. With little more context than the Charleton Heston movie, I assumed he was a fictional creation like Don Quixote.

But I was wrong. It only took a little digging to find El Cantar de Mio Cid, or The Poem of the Cid, the only surviving epic poem from medieval Spain. The poem, similar in form to The Song of Roland, recounts the adventures of the real Spanish warlord and nobleman Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar. He was called El Cid Campeador, a title that reflected the esteem in which he was held by both the Moors and the Spanish. “El cid” was derived from the Moorish al-sidi, meaning sir or lord, while “campeador” means champion in Spanish.

El Cantar de Mio Cid is a dramatic retelling of daring deeds with a heroic figure, facing down enemies with courage and his sword. A continued refrain in the poem is that El Cid, with zest for the fight, was born in a fortunate time.

Historic figure

El Cid had already made a name for himself fighting the Moors for King Ferdinand when the king died. The lands Ferdinand had ruled were divided among his five children. They immediately started fighting each other. Sancho, the son who’d inherited Castile, named El Cid commander of his armies. When Sancho was assassinated, his brother King Alfonso was the chief suspect. El Cid made Alfonso publicly proclaim his innocence. Angered, Alfonso forced El Cid into exile alone, in effect holding his daughters and beloved wife Jimena hostage.

On his warhorse Babieca and brandishing his sword Tizona, El Cid became a mercenary, mainly fighting the Moors but not being too fussy in his choice of employer. Eventually he managed to squeeze Alfonso into relenting on the exile and was reunited with his family. Aligned once again with Alfonso, El Cid conquered Valencia where he and Jimena ruled in Alfonso’s name until El Cid died in 1099. His daughters became queens of Aragon and Navarre. His sword is preserved in Spain’s Museum of the Army.

Role model

El Cantar de Mio Cid is as much about leadership as anything else. Surprising for his time, El Cid often “took counsel,” asked his men for input, and actually listened to their advice. As a result, his men were fiercely loyal to him; 115 knights spurned King Alfonso, went into exile with El Cid, and fought by his side as mercenaries.

This was the perfect role model I’d been looking for as my fiction hero, Eduardo Cortez Castillo, leads a brotherhood of cops sworn to be incorruptible. In THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY, “Los Hierros,” the Iron Ones, will take on not just police corruption but a scheme to allow Mexico’s most notorious drug cartel to buy political power through the Mexican presidential elections.

El Cid’s relationship with his beloved wife Jimena gave the role model an extra dimension. Like El Cid, Eduardo falls in love, although with a woman who by the unspoken laws of Mexico’s rigid class structure, cannot stand by his side. Yet Eduardo tells Luz de Maria about his role model and references to El Cid become a secret code between the two lovers.

I hope you check out THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY and find the clues to El Cid.

But most of all, may you, like El Cid, live in a fortunate time.

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

The worst writing advice ever. Not kidding.

The worst writing advice ever. Not kidding.

“But the novel is set in Mexico,” she said. “All the characters are Mexican.”

“That’s right,” I replied. “Lives of the people fighting the drug cartels. And Mexico’s class structure.”

More than 5 years ago, I was speaking on the phone to a well-known American author about potential agents and publishers for  THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY. She was enthusiastic about the quality of my writing but we kept circling around an undefined problem.

“New York will never touch it,” she said finally. “And a New York agent is the only kind worth having. New York agents are looking for the next Sex and the City. Glossy. High heels. New York.”

“This is a political thriller,” I countered. “Makes the real Mexico accessible to the American audience the way Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko series did for Russia.”

GORKY PARK, RED SQUARE and the other Arkady Renko novels were ground-breaking, taking us inside a crumbling Soviet Union and then a mafia-riddled Russia.

My book took the reader inside the real Mexico. How was it any different?

New York won’t buy a book with all Mexican characters

The famous author didn’t care. Her sniff was audible.

“New York won’t buy a book with all Mexican characters,” she said.And your main character is a maid. At least couldn’t you make her American?”

I made a gurgling sound.

“You know,” the author blithely went on. “A college girl from Pittsburgh named Susan or Tess who goes to Mexico on a cultural exchange program to work as a maid for a semester. Something like that.”

I could have tossed off a barbed remark about how it would cost an American in Pittsburgh more to get to Mexico than they would earn as a maid in three months, but I was too busy being appalled.

This was a book about Mexico’s drug war, the people fighting it, and their chances of survival. It was also a Cinderella story taking on Mexico’s unspoken caste system. Sue and Tess were not part of that narrative.

Related: Read Chapters 1 & 2

Was she right?

Most of the New York agents I queried never replied. The few that did were only taking on a few select projects. One agency well known for representing fiction and thrillers said they didn’t take on my specific “genre.”

Ahem, I was pitching a political thriller.

Related post: How to Solve Hollywood’s Lack of Latino Roles

Trend or snub?

The question became unavoidable. Was this the classic snub of a new author by the New York cognoscenti? Or a mainstream publishing industry bias against Hispanic-themed popular fiction?

I don’t have any empirical evidence either way, as I update this in 2018. But in 2014 I wrote:

“If this is a trend, then it is a trend that runs counter to both population demographics and marketing statistics. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, Hispanics made up 16% of the US population in 2010 and that rate is projected to rise to 29% in 2050. This group has significant buying power.

The Latino buying power will be $1.5 trillion and steadily increasing by 2015, as asserted by The Nielsen Company in its early 2012 report “State of the Hispanic Consumer.” Meanwhile, ever alert to trends, Amazon introduced a bilingual English-Spanish Kindle e-reader.”

To play devil’s advocate, the lack of response to my queries is to be expected for most authors who try to break into traditional publishing. Some time later, an agent told me they couldn’t publish the first Detective Emilia Cruz because “I don’t know anyone who knows you.”

There are many more would-be authors knocking on agent and editor doors than there is interest in offering a contract to an unknown. But I think the message in that author’s suggestion to change the nationality of the main character speaks for itself.

Update

Drug violence on America’s border is constantly in the news and the US national debate over immigration is acute.  Fiction can help to socialize these issues and give them an understanding, a face, and an immediacy that often the news cannot.

Meanwhile, THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY, with all of its Mexican characters, is available on Amazon in print and ebook formats. It is rated 4.8 out of 5 stars with comments like:

It’s a perfect blend of action, suspense and romance. The action keeps you turning the pages as the author portrays the gritty reality of the city. Amato captures the complexity of life in one of the world’s largest cities, expertly depicting the sleazy politicians, the drug lords, their violent lieutenants and the common Mexicans who are victimized by them. Her characters are sharply drawn and totally believable.”

Read the book and you will learn something about the drug wars cost and the people who are determined to end the corruption. You’ll learn about the class system that divides the Mexican culture. Amato fills the pages with three-dimensional characters that you care about. You will be thrilled with the way Amato shares the dinner between Eduardo and Luz. I wanted to read that whole scene out loud to my wife.”

And this from the Literary Fiction Review: “The Hidden Light of Mexico City by Carmen Amato is a rivetingly dramatic tale of politics and corruption, and a man and a woman from opposite ends of the social spectrum who fall in love.” 

The most viewed page on this website is the dreamcast of Latino actors who I think should star in any movie adaptation.

My sniff is audible.

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

On the Rocks with Thriller Author Tim Tigner

On the Rocks with Thriller Author Tim Tigner

This week I went behind the writing scenes with with thriller author Tim Tigner, who shared details about his Kyle Achilles series and some great protips for creating sensational thrillers. Driven by great reviews, his books are zooming up the thriller and adventure categories on Amazon.

Tim Tigner

Thriller author Tim Tigner

1 Carmen Amato: Tim thanks so much for stopping by. I ran across your books a few months ago and recognized a fellow author-adventurer! Tell us how your previous careers in intelligence and international business led you to become a thriller writer.

Tim Tigner: I rose quickly within the medical technology industry (International Managing Director at a blue chip at age 26) only to find that I didn’t enjoy the executive suite (loved the job, hated the politics.) So I asked myself what I’d do if I could do anything. I chose writing thrillers because reading them is my bliss.

I didn’t make the leap for another eight years though, not until a doctor in Brussels actually wrote “change your job” on his prescription pad for me. By then I was very familiar with the palace intrigue rampant in governments and corporations. I also knew the military from my time in the Army Special Forces. Convinced that I had the knowledge to plot page-turning thrillers, I took the plunge and lived off savings for the years required to learn how to write.

2  CA: How do you create multi-dimensional fictional characters, including your lead character Kyle Achilles? He is often in complex and dangerous circumstances. What criteria does he use to make decisions?

TT: Multidimensional characters bring their backgrounds, hopes, ambitions, skills and fears into situations. Of course I design the plots to expose those details while forcing the characters confront them and change, grow or adapt accordingly. To keep the pace up, I avoid including character detail that isn’t relevant to the plot, while inserting pertinent detail piecemeal rather than as a block of exposition.

As for Achilles, he has what I consider to be a typical Special Forces attitude. He’ll do what it takes to get the job done. Period. He’s Olympian tough and has trained himself to balance risk and manage fear by climbing cliffs without a rope. These qualities open up tactics not available to the average Joe, and he leverages them to his advantage. Like many in law enforcement, justice is Achilles’ main motivator. He hates seeing the strong cheat the weak, and he enjoys having the ability to stop it.

Related: Author to author with David Bruns

3  CA: Your espionage thrillers range around the world. How do you use setting to create and build suspense? Tell us about a favorite location that you used in a book.

TT:  People read fiction to escape, so I try to give them the trifecta of escaping to intriguing situations, with interesting people, in cool places. This tends to include both a city and a building in my novels. Usually the building is the wealthy protagonist’s home or office. For setting, I’ve used Monaco/Monte Carlo in a couple of my books because it’s such an exotic city, with so much wealth and beauty plus gambling, yachting, and racing. Who wouldn’t want to spend time there?

Years ago, a friend and I drove the Monaco Grand Prix route two days after the race was held in the city. We careened around streets literally wrapped in mattresses, under the famous pink castle and past the casino!

CA: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?

TT: I like to think big, so I’d invite the author of the Bible (I know, I know. But I can’t think of a more fascinating conversation.) Second choice would be Plato because there would just be so much to talk about (I was a philosophy major.) If we stick to the living I’d go with Ken Follett because he’s the fiction writer I admire most and I’d just love to discuss his work with him.

With any of the above, what we’d eat wouldn’t be as important as where. Kinda gets back to your question about setting. I’d find someplace memorable. I turn 50 later this month, and I don’t know what I’ll be having for breakfast, but I know I’ll be having at the Vatican. (Shhh, my family doesn’t know we’re going yet.)

CA: What is your best protip? Tell us about a writing habit, technique, or philosophy that keeps your writing sharp.

TT: My best protip is to use lots of beta/proof readers. An army of eyes catches more than a couple of pros. Not just typos and inconsistencies, but “professional” errors. Docs catch medical stuff, lawyers legal, etc. Ask for volunteers from your fans (mailing list), so that you know they like your style and their tastes match your target audience.

More about Tim:

Tim Tigner writes fast-paced spy novels, international conspiracy thrillers. He draws heavily from his experiences in Soviet Counterintelligence with the US Army Special Forces, as an international business executive in the medical industry, and as a Silicon Valley startup CEO. Download one of his bestsellers for free at timtigner.com.

 

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Book Review: Jihadi Apprentice by Bruns & Olson

Book Review: Jihadi Apprentice by Bruns & Olson

I write mysteries and thrillers and love to read them, too. In this book review, I look at JIHADI APPRENTICE by David Bruns and J.R. Olson, a very modern thriller with an insider’s ring of authenticity.

With a compelling scenario and characters at cross purposes, JIHADI APPRENTICE exposes the  motivations and manipulations of global terrorism as well as the Herculean burden carried by those hunting terrorism’s ringleaders. In the style of Ken Follett’s TRIPLE or Brad Thor’s latest offering, we watch the bad guys with mounting dread and pray for the good guys who must work in sync but are primed for mistrust.

Related: A Chat with Thriller Author David Bruns

The centerpiece of the story is the recruitment of Aya, a Muslim teen in Minneapolis, by Imaan, a Somali folk singer who uses her fame within the global Somali diaspora to recruit terror cells. Their interpersonal dynamics draw on the Somali community’s search to find its footing in American society in Minneapolis; Imaan is easily able to exploit the restless Aya and put words in her mouth. But Imaan is being manipulated as well, and we see up close and personal how terrorist leaders ruthlessly use others to advance their creed.

Related: Book Review: Weapons of Mass Deception by David Bruns and JR Olson

Ranged against Imaan and her shadowy puppetmaster are three US officials we met in the authors’ WEAPONS OF MASS DECEPTION; an workaholic FBI agent, a Navy officer with a covert operations background, and an intelligence officer with an unlikely working relationship with an Iranian counterpart. They each have a piece of the puzzle when it comes to hunting terrorists and stopping recruitment, but are operating blind for the most part, digging up fragmentary information, encountering red herrings, and coping with  competing agendas. The job takes its toll, notably on the romance between the FBI agent and the Navy officer. Even the secondary characters are well drawn and relateable. In particular, a female Mossad agent makes a powerful cameo that illustrates the risk of collecting intelligence in the terrorists’ territory.

Related: Book Review Cheatsheet: Learn How to Write a Review that Matters

The pacing is terrific, the situations are believable, and the action keeps up a truly unrelenting tempo. The last quarter of the book is like dominoes falling; you can’t help but keep reading. The only problem with JIHADI APPRENTICE is that the next book with this cast of characters won’t be here soon enough.

Get it here on Amazon

Verdict: An exciting and contemporary page-turner in which terrorism is a high-stakes game played with people’s lives on a global scale.

 

Book Review: The Orphan Uprising

Book Review: The Orphan Uprising

The Orphan Uprising is the riveting last book in the Orphan Trilogy by the father-and-son writing duo of Lance and James Morcan from New Zealand. I hear they are making a movie based on the books and if so, it ought to be a blockbuster.

The first two books, The Ninth Orphan and The Orphan Factory, lay the groundwork: the shadowy Omega group is bent on world-wide domination and through genetic testing has evolved a group of people with super mental and physical capabilities. They have been raised with numbers for names, based on their birth order, and raised in a secret orphanage where they learned to be uber-intelligence agents to help Omega get rid of enemies and solidify members in positions of global power and influence.

But Orphan Nine, the best yet not the most ruthless, wants out. And so the saga begins.

The books move like Hollywood action scripts, combining elements from The Boys from Brazil with YA action akin to Divergent. Part sci-fi, part political thriller, all of the books are great fun but Uprising is the best. Nine has successfully broken from Omega and lives with his son and pregnant wife in French Polynesia. But Omega has somehow learned of his offspring—who would be valuable from a genetic testing standpoint—and kidnaps him. Nine has a heart attack at the crucial moment. Barely recovered, he goes after the boy, into Omega controlled territory including a string of genetic testing laboratories. The trail leads Nine around the world in 80 breathless days of action, drama, and well described unique locations including Greenland and the Congo. It’s a page-turner right to the end and a hefty read to boot. The Morcans don’t skimp on the action, making this an excellent entertainment value.

As a mystery and thriller author, I look for plot twists and turns, engaging characters, and balanced construction that makes a book review a pleasure. The Orphan Uprising delivers on all counts.

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Book Review: Smokescreen, a thriller

Book Review: Smokescreen, a thriller

Smokescreen by Khaled Talib is a thriller for today’s audience. It’s got a politically driven plot based on current events, an everyman hero, and enough double-dealing and deranged killers to keep the reader flipping pages and skipping meals.

What makes Smokescreen such a contemporary stand-out, however, is that unlike most popular thrillers, the hero is neither American nor British. Imagine that! Nor does the action originate in  either Washington or London. Instead, our hero is a mixed-race citizen of Singapore, but with a lifestyle and motivations that have universal appeal. The Asian nation of Singapore, portrayed in the novel as an international espionage crossroads, is a surprisingly terrific setting for a thriller. I started checking on flights just to go follow the novel’s path and see the sights.

Related: Book review: Weapons of Mass Deception

Jethro “Jet” West is a pampered local journalist of mixed descent who writes a society column, takes martial arts classes, and is sleeping his way through the ladies of Singapore’s upper crust. But he also plans to edit a new independent newspaper, a move which gets him some unwanted attention. He’s identified to be the convenient fall guy in a plot to assassinate the Israeli Prime Minister by radical members of the Israeli military—aided by a sympathetic Singaporean official and his hired guns–when the PM visits Singapore. Seems the PM is going soft on Palestine and has offered up one too many concessions for the hard right wingers in Israel. They know how to fix things, although a spy within their midst passes on the information and the scene is set.

In order for the plot to work, West must be regarded as a plausible evil-doer with a criminal past. So the radicals will give him one. When the PM bites it, their logic runs, no one will be surprised that West is the culprit as he’ll have a “past” that fits his newly minted profile as a killer run amok. Talib does a good job of keeping West confused and angry by what is happening, yet figuring out how to survive and close down the plot. In the end, it’s West’s talents as a journalist that will be the key.

The book has the thriller’s edge of a Ludlum. West’s comfortable world suddenly implodes and he finds himself on the run. A shadowy American ambassador-cum-spymaster is his only help. Yet that man has his own agenda, questionable contacts, and reasons for helping. More characters are gray rather than wholly bad, yet the plot stays linear and the reader isn’t confused, which is an improvement over most Ludlum novels.

I would have liked the big climax to have circled back to the Israeli PM’s visit. But the right things happened and there’s potential for Jet West to make a repeat appearance. If he does, I hope he’s still in Singapore. Sights, sounds, and smells are on full display in the book, ensuring that the setting provides stiff competition to the action.

As a mystery and thriller author, I am always on the lookout for books with the elements most important to me: a great setting that draws me onto the streets and into intereesting palces, twists and turns in the plot, and multi-dimensional characters. Smokescreen has it all.  Highly recommended.

Khaled Talib visited this blog last year, letting readers know his favorite books. Check out what he’s serving for dinner, too.

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Book Review: Homicide Chart by V.S. Kemanis

The second Dana Hargrove legal thriller is a well paced, polished, and highly enjoyable read. I liked the first Dana Hargrove book, THURSDAY’S LIST, but Kemanis has hit her stride with HOMICIDE CHART.

Related post: Book Review: Thursday’s List by V.S. Kemanis

Dana is still with the New York District Attorney’s office, but time has moved forward by several years and she’s now married to Evan, a private sector attorney. They have a toddler, Travis. The couple lives in Manhattan and employs a Dutch au pair, Annecke. With two busy careers, the couple depends on the girl, but they don’t know the heavy secret she carries.

Neither does the reader at first and Kemanis meters out the suspense in compelling fashion. There are three major plot elements all going on at the same time—Dana’s criminal murder case involving a notorious street gang, Evan’s defamation case for a looney romance author, and Annecke’s increasingly disturbing behavior. Points of view move between characters as the action takes us from courtroom to boardroom to the nanny’s woes. Each time the narration switches, the reader is left hungry for more from that plot element, making for great reading all the way through.

Each of the three threads is absorbing in its own right, and incorporates a different legal issue. I wondered if they would converge in a climax, or if one would eventually take center stage. The pieces fall into place (no spoilers!) in a highly satisfying way and justice is served in each instance.

HOMICIDE CHART is highly recommended, especially if you like the legal thriller genre.

Book Review: Thursday’s List by V. S. Kemanis

Book Review: Thursday’s List by V. S. Kemanis

The Amazon.com description of legal thriller THURSDAY’S LIST doesn’t do justice to what is a revealing dive into the legal tangles involved in catching and convicting foreign money launderers in the US.

Set in 1988, with a pre-cell phone, pre-9/11 and pre-Patriot Act feel, it revolves around an investigation by New York City prosecutors into the flow of drug money by Colombia’s Cali cartel. The 80’s were the heyday of the Colombian drug cartels and the book shines brightest when describing money laundering activities and the agonizing work to find bank accounts, checks, couriers, and other links to the Colombian bad guys. Swept up in the churn is rookie attorney Dana Hargrove. Her best friend not only works in a bank being used by the cartels but is married to a bookish Colombian who thought he’d left his country’s drug mess behind him long ago.

The story starts with action and great atmospherics as Hargrove yawns her way through a shift as prosecutor at a dumpy NYC night court, complete with surly judge in a scene that put me in mind of a darker and more serious episode of the old TV sitcom Night Court. A bad smelling case, however, takes her out of the court rota and into a unit investigating financial crimes.

The financial crimes colleagues are neither forthcoming nor trustworthy and although still young and making mistakes, Hargrove is savvy enough to realize she’s being used. The suspense here isn’t the whodunit variety or a complex plot twist but turns on the question of how long the heroine and her best friend can survive being used by the system before the system catches the bad guys.

I was particularly struck by how THURSDAY’S LIST is the flip side of the fight against drug cartels that I wrote about in THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY. Hargrove is tracking the money trail on the US side of the border (albeit in 1988) and is subject to US laws and restrictions. In HIDDEN LIGHT, Mexican attorney Eddo Cortez Castillo uses whatever legal, military, and ultimately private means he can in today’s Mexico to investigate money laundering in an effort to get close enough to a drug cartel to take action. Both books describe the practice known as “layering” that cartels use to move and hide money.

Comparing the two descriptions gave me some sad but universal truths about fighting drug cartels and their violence. This book review isn’t about that but the similarities are striking.

FYI–THURSDAY’s LIST is a legal thriller that requires the reader’s full attention. The US legal intricacies of tracking money are complex and dominate the first half while the reader lives inside the heads of Hargrove and her friend for much of the second. An added complication is the book’s non-standard way of referring to characters that are variously called by their first names, last names, nicknames, or in some cases merely by job title.

A Little Taste of CLIFF DIVER

A Little Taste of CLIFF DIVER

Just to whet your imagination here’s a snippet of CLIFF DIVER, the first Emilia Cruz novel . . .

The diver stretched to his full extension then pushed off. His back arched and his arms stretched wide and he looked like a crucifix as he sailed over the rocks. His arms raised up over his head and his hands came together right before he impacted with the water. A spume of froth shot skywards and he disappeared into the depth as the crowd on the plaza gasped and applauded.

The diver popped out of the water beyond the rocks and the crowd applauded again. It took a few minutes before the next diver climbed onto the tiny platform on the cliff face. He was older, with a black suit and a heavy torso, and a less athletic look than the younger man. When he carefully turned his back to the ocean the crowd murmured excitedly.

“He’s got balls,” Kurt said. The back of his hand brushed against Emilia’s.

The diver launched backwards off the cliff face and twisted in the air. As his body rotated close to the cliff the crowd gasped, but he made a clean entry into the ocean, the water rippling out around him. The applause was wild.

As the sun set, they watched the other men laboriously climb up the cliff face to the small natural platform, stretch and limber their muscles and dive past the rocks to the perfect spot in the ocean far below.

“That’s me,” Emilia said as the youngest diver in the red suit stood poised on the platform, the spectacular sunset behind him.

“What do you mean?” Kurt asked. His hand turned and a finger stroked the inside of Emilia’s thumb and forefinger.

“That’s me.” Emilia’s hand turned of its own accord and gently played with Kurt’s. He was looking at her, not at the cliff divers, and Emilia heard herself babble nervously. “Falling off a cliff, not ready for it. Not knowing if I’m going to hit the rocks and be smashed to pieces or not.”

Emilia watched as the young diver swung his arms and rolled his neck and she wondered if he was doing it for the crowd’s benefit or if it was a release for his fear and nervousness. He hunched his shoulders forward, then pulled them back. His knees bent and his thigh muscles rippled and then he launched himself into the air. For a moment he was silhouetted against the blue sky and then he curled himself into a somersault. The crowd gasped as one as his body rotated and his hair seemed to kiss the cliff face. Then he stretched out, straining for distance, and completed a soaring arc that plunged him into the water like an arrow shot from a bow and Emilia felt the strain and the pain and the rush of cold water.

Cliff DiverGet it today on Amazon!

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Why Read a Book About Mexico Now

Reading about Mexico now is a mix of highs and lows. Fiction can’t substitute for facts but it can lead us to become interested enough in an issue to find out what is really going on.  That is the impact I hope The Hidden Light of Mexico City can have.

The press release says:

 The classic Cinderella story moves to Mexico against a backdrop of government corruption, drug cartel violence, and pending presidential elections.  The Hidden Light of Mexico City’s raw exposé of Mexico’s rigid class society makes this political thriller a must-read before America’s next debate over immigration.

Why is this important

What’s happening today is Mexico is fairly staggering.  As reported by The New York Times, based on Mexican Government statistics released in January, over 47,000 people have been killed in the country’s crackdown against the cartels.  It’s common knowledge that many are dead as the result of competition between rival cartels. Other dead are those who were transiting cartel territory as they tried to immigrate and were pressed into service to the cartels and then killed.  Stories of the “disappeared” and mass graves remind me of news reports of Cambodia back in the day, of “The Killing Fields” movie.

The killing fields are spilling over onto America’s doorstep. Last September the New York Times published an interactive map showing Mexican drug cartel reach across the border and a map of US drug seizures from Mexican cartel shipments to the US.  Disturbing, hardhitting.

CNN’s  recent series is even more compelling. The reporting takes us from a walk through a cemetary in drug kingpin El Chapo’s home state of Sinaloa, to a cold hard look at the numbers, to the search for those missing amid the violence.

Mexico’s drug war isn’t just about the fight between the cartels and the military, about political will to stamp out evil or even about guns and agents moving across the US-Mexican border. More than anything, it is about a people and a culture under attack.

This is where fiction can help tell a vital story, by imagining the lives of those living through the struggle, making them breathe and love and cry and fight. Fiction can hold attention and provoke emotion in a way that the news might not.

Update 2016

The numbers of those missing or known dead in Mexico continues to rise. The re-arrest of El Chapo kept the various cartels at each others’ throats in the quest to dominate drug routes into the ever-voracious US, and violence continues in many parts of Mexico.

Whatever the US presidential election holds for us, the US-Mexico relationship is back on the agenda after having been eclipsed for quite some time by the Middle East. The southern border, immigration, and undocumented folks are likely to be addressed one way or another. If fiction can help focus attention on improving relations between these critical neighbors, so much the better.

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

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