In my last blog, I talked about how I was writing a series of novels set in different regions of Mexico—the Yucatan, the west coast, the D.F., and you know what? I should have included another region of Mexico—California. I don’t mean that in a snide way, at all. It’s simply a fact. We were once, and are now, a part of the lives, economy and history of our southern neighbor. In fact, the great Mexican writer Octavio Paz once wrote that Los Angeles looked more like a Mexican city than a North American one—the way it floated haphazardly under the shimmering blue sky.
Last year in San Miguel de Allende, I was talking to a waiter on the rooftop bar of the Rosewood who had just returned from the States. “At least,” I said, “you’re back in your own country.” He gave a dismissive shrug. “Pues, hay mas Mexicanos in Los Angeles que aqui in San Miguel.” There are more Mexicans in Los Angeles than here in San Miguel. He was probably right.
With all the name-calling, the sick sadism of Sheriff Joe down in Arizona and, finally, the Border Security Act, which was more of a financial security act for Bell helicopters since they got to unload moth-balled choppers on the American taxpayers with the help of Sen. Lindsay Graham, we really have no idea who these people are, what their lives are like.
That problem is easily solved by reading. As far as I’m concerned, there is no better place to start than with California writer David Corbett’s book Do They Know I’m Running.
Quick synopsis: Roque Montalvo, a musically talented, eighteen year old Salvadoran immigrant is enlisted by his family in Richmond, California to go to El Salvador to bring back his uncle Faustino , who has been rounded up at the Port of Oakland in a raid and deported. Faustino’s son ‘Happy’ has entered into an unholy alliance with Central America’s worst gang, the MS-13 in order to accomplish this. Once in El Salvador, a land of violence, corruption and grueling poverty for the poor like Faustino, Roque begins a harrowing journey through Mexico, the country he must traverse to save himself and the ones he loves. After you finish this book, you will never be able to look at illegal immigrants the same way. It should be required reading for those in Congress who vote on immigration issues.
Not only that, this novel is a fabulous read. Here’s the NYT bestselling thriller writer John Lescroart’s blurb of the book. Couldn’t say it better.
“With lyrical yet muscular prose, an ahead-of-the-headlines plot, and utterly believable characters David Corbett’s Do They Know I’m Running? is nothing short of superb. This is not just a thriller, but an elegant novel, full of heart, soul, music, food, cruelty, betrayal, poverty and love. The line runs through Ernest Hemingway and Graham Greene, straight on to David Corbett. I’m not kidding. He’s just that good.”