Rolo Diez. Tequila Blue. Trans. Nick Caistor. London, Bitter Lemon Press, 2004. ISBN 1-904738-04-4
Some of the ugliest stereotypes of Mexican culture revolve around corruption and Mexican cops. “Don't get in trouble in Mexico,” goes the theory, because a Mexican cop will threaten you, solicit a bribe, rob you, sexually abuse you, administer a good ass kicking, or shoot you.
Rolo Diez' novel, Tequila Blue, shows the stereotype untrue. Sgt. Carlos Hernandez of the DO, an elite Mexico City investigative squad, doesn't kick anyone's ass in this first person narrative. Instead, setting out with a pair of henchmen to rob an exclusive whore house, Carlos gets a good ass-kicking when he drives the trio of Mexican cops into an ambush, where Carlos' car gets destroyed by a hand grenade and the detective suffers a gunshot to the neck and a concussion.
Stuck in the middle of nowhere, the able-bodied accomplices kidnap a hapless woman, steal her car, and leave her in the middle of nowhere.
Talk about hard boiled! Carlos tenderly recalls how he lent a hand to a sweetly simple country girl, a household servant. Sets her up in her own business, with her two younger sisters. “Las Tres Marias,” he calls them. And, when Carlos is tired and horny, he calls in the threesome for a “lick me all over” party.
When las tres aren't servicing Carlos--or his friends, his boss, or the policeman's acquaintances-they earn a good enough living to pay Carlos several thousand pesos in protection money, their “insurance policy,” the Sgt calls it. This is not to say Sgt. Hernandez is a pimp. He's considerate of his friends, that's all.
In the course of a relatively convoluted murder investigation, the detective's wife walks out on him and two teenagers, frustrated that her husband isn't providing enough money to live a comfortable lifestyle.
A reader might understand finances can be constrained under the pressures of a wife, two kids, a mistress and her kid, and the social obligations that arise from having to cut his boss, the Commander, in for a rich share of the loot.
Hector Belascoaran Shayne is still my favorite Mexican detective, but if Diez' work finds more English language outlets, he's going to give Shayne a run for his money. At any rate, I hope so. Tequila Blue was published in Mexico City in 1992 as Mato y Voy, so I imagine there's a body of work out there.
Más, I hope someone from este lado inks the contract. To a reader of US English, the Brit spellings and lexical issues can be a bit of a sticky wicket. The bag of “crisps” a fellow munches on, chicharrones? Or, “Get dressed and bring your ID,” I said, seeing Cruz was wearing pyjama trousers and a filthy T-shirt.”
The publisher, Bitter Lemon Press out of London UK, has a number of titles in the genre, billing itself as bringing to market “The best literary crime and romans noirs from Europe, Africa and Latin America.” For more information, visit Bitter Lemon's site at http://www.bitterlemonpress.com/.