When I worked at Cal State LA many years ago, campus cops had an eyeball description of a swarthy fellow who'd committed a burglary. In true Officer Obie fashion, the local heat circulated one of those paint-by-the-numbers suspect mugs. Kinda looked like me. But the best part was the police description "5' 8", 150 lbs, black hair and eyes, Mexican male...". Since it was my office that had been burglarized, I doubted I was the suspect. I asked the police invesigator, "How'd you know he's a Mexican?" After a paroxysm of rage, the fellow sputtered, "Well, he could be a Mexican from El Salvador!"
Not that we all look alike, que no? Must be a fairly common experience for other-than-Mexican brown folks in LA. At any rate, that's one of the minor subtexts in an enjoyable Romilia Chaco'n detective novel, A Venom Beneath the Skin, Marcos M. Villatoro's recent offering from Kate's Mystery Books out of Boston. (That accented "o" looks odd, doesn't it? Same thing happens in Chaco'n's sleuthing.)
Aside from Spanish language diacritics, and those who speak it/them, Villatoro plays with a bunch of fun stuff. Poison frogs. Domestic Terrorism. Arch fiends. You'll get a kick out of Romilia's new partner, a midwest farm-raised gem named Pearl. Not that I knew the old partner, as this is the first Romilia Chaco'n novel I've had the pleasure of reading. It's the third in Villatoro's series. If you need a quick summer read between the heavy stuff, A Venom Beneath the Skin fits the bill.
Boston isn't ghettoizing the literature, is it? How about a New York Spanish language publisher? Marcela Landres' current email announces a couple of editorial jales in NYC. One's a salaried post as assistant to the editor, another's an hourly slot. Landres describes the former as:
Responsibilities: Assist the Editor-in-Chief in the review, acquisition and title planning of all books for Mosaico and Circulo de Lectores book clubs. Research Spanish language publishing trends, new titles and publishers as well as review publishers' catalogs and upcoming editorial plans. Review submissions, negotiate rights for all selections promoted in those clubs and contract titles. Develop in-depth knowledge of market trends and form relationships with key publishers.
Details on Mosaico's openings at her Yahoo page.
SPAM Happens. And Then Some.
"Earth to Gus."
Gus Vigil came out of a trance, self-induced by staring motionlessly at his Inbox minute after minute, thinking, “SPAM, Nothing but SPAM”.
"Yeah, Licha, otra," he agreed, when the barmaid’s question registered. Turning his eyes back to his laptop, Gus made a sour face as his eyes scanned his Inbox again:
SPAM-HIGH: Fw: Best software pri- ces.
SPAM-MED: Fw: 75 % Off for All N_ew Sof_tware.
SPAM-MED: how about this pharmacy
SPAM-MED: dosage : 1 pill a day (VAlGRA)
SPAM-MED: Fw: Need soft_ware? Cl- ick here.
SPAM-HIGH: Watch our gils f uck themselves silly…
SPAM-MED: Vacuum pumps - cause deformed pen1s
Un-secured D E B T is extended and eradicated
SPAM-LOW: You can feed rescued wild horses; More ...
SPAM-HIGH: Important Message from the Olingo Family. Please READ!!
Gus wished he lived in a William Gibson novel. He could jack in to the ‘net, glide through cyberspace and wring some necks. Or watch. That would solve a whole raft of problems, he thought, not the least being boredom.
Gus Vigil pressed the TAB key, highlighting the first Subject. He read it aloud. "spam hyphen high colon space Fewuh colon space Best software pri hyphen space ces period".
"You say 'pa rices' I say "pa reeses', Gus sang.
He down arrowed and read the next subject. "Fewuh colon space box five".
"What the Hell is that supposed to be all about?" Gus Vigil mumbled, “fewuh colon space box number? What kind of stupid asshole thinks anyone is stupid enough to read this shit?" Gus double clicked and waited for the message to fill the screen.
"OK, I don't need any penis enhancers today, thanks..." Gus Vigil looked at the sender's name. "...thanks, Lance Sepulveda. That's a good one, nice ethnic touch."
Licha set the bottle on the bar. Four musical notes sounded out, dit dit dit dah. "Ah, the Scherzo from Beethoven's Eroica. I have a call." Gus announced with excitement. He rarely received phone calls. He fished a plum purple Treo 650 from his casi-mari, pushed the Speakerphone key, and spoke. Licha rolled her eyes.
"Bueno?" Gus spoke loudly, raising an eyebrow at the barmaid, and winked.
"Sir, do you speak English?"
"Bueno? Bueno? Digame," Gus urged.
"Sir, can you hold please while I connect you to one of my Spanish-speaking teammates? I'm transferring you now, Sir, please don't disconnect."
Gus pounded the Off key with gusto when the Treo screen flashed and a HAL voice announced, "Excuse me, Gus, you are being paged." The display read, "Press #606# to pick up."
His excitement was obvious as Gus spoke his ritual dialog:
He announced each key he pushed. "Pound six naught six pound".
The screen flashed and an unfamiliar boy's face looked back at him.
"Hi! Are you Gus Vigil?"
"Who the ... what ... hey ... who?"
"We're calling from the picture phone booth at Disneyland!"
"Disneyland? But how did you get my Treo 650?"
"The GPS Locator chose you at random! We told it to find a Chicano, mid to late 50s, who grew up in an urban area, has a college degree and a Treo 650."
"And who didn't earn more than thirty-five grand a year". A girl's face pushed into the tiny screen. "There aren't too many of you."
"GPS? You asked for what?" Gus felt his chest tighten. He willed himself to relax.
"What do you want?"
"Well, we have this argument and we figured a guy with your profile could settle it." The boy's face pushed back into frame.
Gus furrowed his brow. The girl's voice came from off screen, "OK, here's the question: Was The Rolling Stones' 'It's All Over Now' the greatest rock ‘n roll song ever recorded, or was it 'Wooly Bully'?"
"Hey," the boy added, "did you know you have three CDs and Moony's Road to Hell overdue at the library?"