Call of the grisly - Page 2

Paco Ignacio Taibo II constructs a guide to corruption in Mexico City Noir

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Taibo's chapters feature his Coca-Cola-and-tobacco-addled, one-eyed detective Hector Belascoarn Shayne on the trail of a murderer named Morales. Marcos in turn writes about a Zapatista investigator named Elias, who is also searching for a man named Morales. The two stories wind up intersecting in a sometimes surreal jumble in Mexico City, where, in Taibo's words, there are "more movie theatres than Paris, more abortions than London, and more universities than New York."

The 1968 Mexico City police massacre of student activists is a key reference point in both books. That bloody repression was clearly a watershed period for Taibo and Marcos, profoundly influencing both of them. In the early 1980s, Marcos went south to Chiapas and joined the guerrillas who evolved into Zapatistas. Taibo became a history professor at the Metropolitan University of Mexico City and president of the International Association of Political Writers; He also went on to write '68, a memoir of sorts available in English from Seven Stories Press, and the experimental novel Calling All Heroes: A Manual for Taking Power (which features a survivor of the 1968 police massacres who enlists the aid of his childhood heroes Sherlock Holmes, Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, and D'Artagnan to help him in a new reform movement) just reprinted by local publisher PM Press.

Both Taibo and Marcos retained their radical politics and commitment to class struggle. They also share a fondness for absurdist humor, and both display an endearing willingness to laugh at themselves. Self-effacing humor is not a trait one usually associates with committed leftists, alas. The writing of Taibo and Marcos is a fine corrective to the unfortunate association of strident humorlessness with radical activism.

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