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Four left hands

Paco Ignacio Taibo II, the detective novelist who I recently mentioned helping me through long bus rides in Mexico, has an interesting new project: he's co-authoring a serialized novel with Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatistas.

The novel, entitled Muertos incómodos, is appearing in weekly installments in the Mexican newspaper La Jornada. Subtitled "a novel for four hands" it could create some confusion with one of Taibo's best-known previous works, Cuatro Manos/Four Hands. But this one should be a bit different; it brings back Taibo's regular character Héctor Belascoarán Shayne but pairs him with one created by Subcomandante Marcos, one Elías Contreras, a Zapatista official who investigates crimes and disappearances in EZLN-controlled territory. The two may not be as unlikely a pair as you'd think, since Taibo is well known for the left-leaning politics embedded in his books and Marcos for his witty prose. According to an explanatory article in La Jornada, the two authors are writing alternate chapters in a true serialization, in that they started appearing before the end of the novel was fixed. So far six have been published. You can see the current chapter on the La Jornada site, which for some reason obscures the URLs in the bowels of its advertising system; fortunately there's an archive of the previous chapters on the site of the solidarity organization SODEPAZ. Presumably the thing will be published in book form, and in several languages, when it's done.

Muertos incómodos Cosa fácil

A SASIALIT participant once commented that it "is well known" that third-world writers don't do noir, to which it was nice to reply with the counterexample of Taibo. I'm presently reading his Cosa fácil, a delightful (and fortunately thin, for my slow pace in Spanish) book in which his Basque-Irish chilango detective is trying to solve three mysteries at once: the murder of a salaryman engineer, the disappearance of an actress's teenage daughter, and rumors that Emiliano Zapata lived to fight the yanquis at the side of Sandino in Nicaragua. Belascoarán Shayne is painfully aware of the detective stereotype and the conventions of the crime novel and a voice in his head is often asking in effect, What would Philip Marlowe do? To which he usually replies with a fine array of expletives.

Taibo's books are widely available in English and even in Spanish, for instance through Amazon. I guess he's no secret to readers of mysteries since he's won plenty of international awards. I look forward to seeing what he and the Subcomandante come up with -- although I think I'll wait for the hard copy. I'm not set up to read PDFs on long-haul buses. (Thanks to the interesting Mexico City blog Chilanga Banda for the link.)

books 2005.01.12 link