DEL RIO, CALIFORNIA, a once-thriving Central Valley farm town, is now filled with run-down Dollar Stores, llanterias, carnicerias, and shabby mini-marts that sell one-way bus tickets straight to Tijuana on the Flecha Amarilla line. It’s a place you drive through with windows up and doors locked, especially at night — a place the locals call Cartel Country.
To District Attorney Callie McCall, her dying hometown is the perfect place to launch a political career and make a difference. But when the dismembered body of a migrant teen is found in one of Del Rio’s surrounding citrus groves, Callie faces a career make-or-break case that takes her on a dangerous journey down the violent west coast of Mexico, deep into a tropical paradise hiding a terrible secret, and finally back home again, where her determination to find the killer pits her against the wealthiest, most politically connected, most ruthless farming family in California: her own.
More about the book from the author
Where on a map of California can you find Del Rio?
My novel Del Rio is set in a fictional town in the Central Valley halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, a place made up of a bunch of small towns in the valley near my ranch, towns where I got my hair done, where I went to the bank, where I did my grocery shopping. It doesn’t really exist, well, except in my imagination, and soon in yours I hope.
I think one of the best compliments I ever got on this manuscript was when I pitched it at a conference, and an editor, looking over his glasses at me said, “Wow, so do you live in Del Rio?” The place seemed that real to him. And in a way, it is.
Writing, as they say is a journey, and this book certainly took me on one. I’d intended when I first started on the Mexico Trilogy to set the second book solely on the west coast of Mexico. I’d been to Mexico’s Pacific coast many, many times and loved its “Night of the Iguana” feel. I wanted to give the reader that kind atmosphere, give him or her a totally different feel and cast of characters from the Mexico City setting that I recreated in Palace of the Blue Butterfly.
But one Saturday a few years back, something happened that changed the whole trajectory of the book.
I’d gone into town to do some errands and go to the bank. When I got to the Wells Fargo, the line was out the door. That had never happened before. But then, I’d never been there on a Saturday, mid-month, on payday for the farm workers. It didn’t take long before I realized I was the only native English speaker in the whole line.
Suddenly, a lightbulb exploded in my head. I didn’t need to go south, at least in the book, to be in Mexico. I WAS on the west coast of Mexico. Right then, right there.
After I made my deposit, I immediately got in my car, drove up the mountain, headed right for my office, and sat down to write the first sentence of what was to become Del Rio. It was this:
Fletcher wanted me to meet him at the Starlight Lounge, an old roadhouse set on the banks of the San Joaquin River, a few miles south of town.
That was the voice of Callie, my protagonist. The book was off and running.
Even though Del Rio starts and ends up in California, Callie travels to the west coast of Mexico to search for the killer, to a fishing village called San Benito, a place that is Night of the Iguana on steroids, as we say these days.
You’ll just have to read the book to find out what happens once she gets there!
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