Books by Paco Ignacio Taibo

RETURNING AS SHADOWS by Paco Ignacio Taibo
Released: Jan. 1, 2003

"Even readers unacquainted with the earlier authors Taibo is channeling, from Cervantes to Borges to Umberto Eco, will find something to love in this Frederick Forsyth yarn reworked by Monty Python."
Not many people know this, but the four raffish heroes of The Shadow of a Shadow (1991) returned 20 years later to battle the Nazis in 1941 Mexico, as Taibo recounts in this outrageous palimpsest of wartime intrigue. Read full book review >
GUEVARA, ALSO KNOWN AS CHE by Paco Ignacio Taibo
Released: Oct. 30, 1997

Mexican novelist Taibo (Leonard's Bicycle, 1995, etc.) offers his political adventure-story take on Latin America's revered revolutionary, with heavy use of excerpts from Guevara's diaries and interviews with other sources. In the third biography of Guevara this year, Taibo spends little time investigating the revolutionary's personal life, which was detailed by Jon Lee Anderson (p. 343), and is similarly brief with his subject's initial political development and his changing views, which was Jorge Casta§eda's focus (p. 1174). While acknowledging that he was a prolific reader of political tracts, revolutionary poetry, and a wide array of fiction, Taibo notes that when it came to the politics of revolution, ``as far as Cuba was concerned, Che was no more than a country intellectual who had never set foot in a city.'' It is Che the rebel fighter who became an international icon, and it is this aspect of his life that Taibo stresses—one third of the biography is dedicated to his successful year as a soldier and commander in Cuba. While his troops rested between battles, the tireless Che took charge of rebel training camps, gave basic reading lessons, tended to the wounded, and launched the guerrillas' own newspaper and radio station. Once, as Batista's forces were known to be preparing an offensive, Guevara took time out to prepare a splint for a wounded bird. In addition to his individual military victories, Taibo notes that the revolution's success was also due to Guevara's ability to step up the pace of assaults in late 1958 to take advantage of the crumbling dictatorship. After five frustrating years filling various roles in the new Cuban government, Guevara departed in semi-exile to do what he did best—but his expeditions in the Congo and Bolivia ended in failure and eventually in his execution. A sentimental tale of revolutionary exploits, in which Che's own voice is clearly heard. Read full book review >
RETURN TO THE SAME CITY by Paco Ignacio Taibo
Released: Sept. 11, 1996

It's tough enough returning from the dead—and Taibo's prefatory note blithely disclaims any knowledge of how HÇctor Belascoar†n Shayne survived the hail of bullets that apparently killed him at the unhappy end of No Happy Ending (1993)—without having to go back to punching a time clock, and Belascoar†n is in no hurry to take the case foisted on him by a would-be client named Alicia. But Alicia is inventive and persistent, and at length Belascoar†n agrees to shadow Luke Estrella, the Cuban who drove his wife, Alicia's sister Elena, to cocaine and early death. Joining forces with a gringo reporter, Belascoar†n soon realizes that killing Elena is the least of Estrella's crimes, and certainly the most mundane of his adventures. Under various aliases, Estrella has cut the hands off the dead Che Guevara, fixed prices in the international cocaine trade, trafficked in arms for the Nicaraguan contras, hobnobbed with pornography publishers and archeological looters, and—together with a transnational corporate attorney and a loose-cannon CIA op— served as a judge for the Se§orita Bikini Acapulco '88 competition. The story of how Belascoar†n brings this cartoon monster of evil down with the help of an avenging mariachi band is an engaging pendant to his HÇctorless epic Leonardo's Bicycle (1995). Fans of Mexico City's greatest one-eyed detective will be overjoyed to find him not only alive and dyspeptic as ever but deeply smitten with his client: ``How he loved her. She was the ideal woman for a suicide pact.'' Read full book review >
LEONARDO'S BICYCLE by Paco Ignacio Taibo
Released: Sept. 7, 1995

Conspiracy, misdirection, and paranoia intertwine deliriously in this Pynchonesque roman noirwhich won 1994's Latin American Dashiell Hammett Awardby the popular Mexican author of such distinctive mystery novels as The Shadow of the Shadow (1991) and Four Hands (1994). Like Dickens, Taibo sets vividly described characters in manic motion, challenging readers to decipher what they're up to and how their separate pursuits are interconnected. To wit: Mexican mystery writer JosÇ Daniel Fierro (from Life Itself, 1994), an aficionado of televised US Women's basketball, interrupts the novel he isn't writing to investigate an outrage perpetrated upon the young athlete he has adored from afar; diminutive crime reporter Antonio Amador (a real historical figure) survives by his wits and his cojones in 1920s Barcelona, during labor unrest and a looming general strikeand keeps bumping heads with notorious anarchist Angel del Hierro (who may be the grandfather of author Fierro, who is reimagining Amador's adventures); and Jerry Milligan, a CIA operative who survived the fall of Saigon, finds himself summoned to Mexico City by an old compatriot whose criminal demands have something to do with the story Fierro is, alternately, living and reshaping. Behind it (and them) all lurks the protean figure of Leonardo da Vinci, whose documented conception of the bicycle400 years before its invention''had demonstrated the impossibility of the realm of the impossible'' (a typically Taibian formulation), ``and had thereby thrown open the door to hope.'' The novel's jagged structure, featuring rapid segues among its several narrative blocs, creates considerable early confusion, and readers may grow weary. But its characters are sharply imagined, the comic grotesquerie grows on you, the suspense keeps building, and the payoff is terrific. Dazzling, if dense, entertainment: a cockeyed magical-realist paean to the all-too-human power of the imagination in action, and under duress, then as now. Read full book review >
LIFE ITSELF by Paco Ignacio Taibo
Released: Oct. 1, 1994

Taibo's waggish novels about Mexico City shamus Hector Belascoar†n Shayne (No Happy Ending, 1993, etc.) often gave the impression of wanting to be the last detective stories ever written. That impression's even stronger in this novel-about-a- novel that sends mystery writer JosÇ Daniel Fierro, who squeezes orange juice by hand and urinates sitting down, to the northern town of Santa Ana as its new police chief. Against a backdrop of laughably epidemic ruling-party corruption and anti-union warfare, JD and his colorful underlings (an assistant who only answers to ``Blind Man,'' officers who once worked as activists or sold insurance) battle the federal judicial police (who as always are intent on a cover-up) to identify a killer: Someone followed American photographer Anne Goldin from her tryst with Santa Ana's mayor and left her nude, stabbed body in front of the altar at the Church of Carmen. It's only the first of several murders, each of which implicates the victim neatly in the preceding murder. But the case itself, as JD muses in his interspersed letters to his wife back home and in his ``Notes for the History of the Radical City Government of Santa Ana,'' is anything but neat. JD ``discovers nothing, only that things simply happen,'' as in life itself. JD is on target on his own novel's shortcomings: ``It lacks a hook, dramatic architecture, the negative characters...are badly drawn.'' But this end-of-the-road fantasy, so full of Taibo's melancholy cartoon gaiety, will be a feast for connoisseurs. Read full book review >
FOUR HANDS by Paco Ignacio Taibo
Released: July 1, 1994

A complex international scenario of journalism, disinformation, and espionage unfolds through interweaving narratives of fictional characters and historical figures. Greg and Julio, an American and Mexican journalist, respectively, whose ``four hands'' often combine for high-quality investigative stories, are, perhaps, the heroes of this tale. But Alex, the borderline-sane head of the SD (Shit Department), a covert US agency devoted to spreading complex disinformation plots, is an attractive tyrant. His ``Operation Dream of Snow White'' is aimed at discrediting a high-ranking Sandinista. The plan must also satisfy Alex's brilliant sense of the absurd: Alex ``had a Sandinista commander, an astonishing Bulgarian, a Mexican drug dealer, some journalists, an Australian prostitute, a Congress of partisan writers, a murder....'' Taibo (Some Clouds, 1992, etc.) knits further complexities: The story begins when film comedian Stan Laurel witnesses the death of Pancho Villa; a journalistic award Laurel subsequently co-founds with Julio's grandfather will come into play many years later; Greg and Julio are working on a story about Leon Trotsky's recently discovered unfinished detective novel; Houdini visits his therapist (he sees a headless vision of his mother with discomfiting regularity); and chapters such as ``Elena Jordan's Second Rejected Thesis Proposal'' provide hilarious jabs at academia. The Mexican Taibo has been compared to Garc°a M†rquez for both his odd happenings and his mastery of craft. But there is nothing ``magical'' about the odd events and characters included. The novel is only slightly stranger than, say, the Iran-Contra affair, and more closely resembles Joseph Heller's Catch-22. Taibo mercilessly lampoons American imperialism, with all its dirty tricks; the comedic pace rarely slows. But sometimes the prose rises, impassioned, as when it describes the Sandinista revolution. All the while the work sustains diverse, bizarre, and ultimately believable characters. Praise to translator Dail—the rhythms are distinctively American, accurately conveying Taibo's keen view of his northern neighbor's overhanging belly. Read full book review >
NO HAPPY ENDING by Paco Ignacio Taibo
Released: Sept. 1, 1993

What are the Halcones—that shadowy paramilitary group behind the violent government repression of student demonstrations back in 1970- -up to now? First, they plant a corpse in Roman soldier's dress—an assistant to the late magician/bodybuilder Zorak, who trained the Halcones—in the bathroom of Mexico City p.i. HÇctor Belascoar†n Shayne; next, they spirit it away again, warning him to keep out of the murder case and enclosing the photo of a second dead Zorak associate and a plane ticket to New York; then, in response to HÇctor's inevitable inquiries, they hunt him down with rifles and, when he shoots back, swear to avenge their dead. Not bad for a state organization that hasn't exited officially for years—and whose members are now dispersed among bodyguards, subway cops, the army, and everywhere else people have a right to carry guns. Despite HÇctor's characteristically waggish interludes to buy zarzuela records and plan his wedding, this is much tighter and darker than The Shadow of the Shadow (1991) or Some Clouds (1992). A huge (400,000) printing is planned for Russia, where Taibo's manic antiestablishment paranoia should sell very well indeed. Read full book review >
SOME CLOUDS by Paco Ignacio Taibo
Released: July 1, 1992

The latest case for one-eyed Mexico City shamus Hector Belasoar†n Shayne (An Easy Thing, 1990) begins when his sister Elisa drags him back from vacation with an unlikely tale about her friend Anita, who married into the Costa family only to have them wiped out within two months (dad: heart attack; brother Pancho: shot; brother Alberto: found gibbering over Pancho's body; brother Luis, Anita's husband: shot), leaving behind only a paltry legacy of $200 million pesos that somebody—Hector's old school chum Arturo Melgar, now a mobster called the Rat? the laughably corrupt policeman Jacinto Saavedra?—is anxious to prevent Anita from touching. There's also the case of the woman who's spending all her money on brightly colored lingerie her husband never sees; and, in case you were wondering, a writer who sounds an awful lot like Taibo himself turns up halfway through with a story of 14 corpses found in the city's sewer system.... Droll and deadpan. Non sequiturs rule. Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 1991

Halfway through prolific Mexican writer Taibo's dense, bloody, high-spirited historical fantasy of revolution, political corruption, and murder in 1922 Mexico, crime reporter Pioquinto Manterola interrupts a dominoes game with his unlikely fellow-heroes—Chinese- Mexican labor organizer Tom†s Wong, poet/advertising jingle-writer Ferm°n Valencia, and Alberto Verdugo, legal advisor to streetwalkers- -to ask, ``What's Margarita the Widow Rold†n got to do with Colonel G¢mez, Conchita, Celeste the hypnotist, Ram¢n the Spic and long- distance ejaculator, the lieutenant whose name we don't know, and the French aristocrat about whom we know even less?''—and that's only the first of his 15 riddles. The trail of corpses, grotesques, and anarchists eventually leads through innumerable adventures, gunfights, flashbacks, and dominoes games to a 1920 plot to cede control of the Gulf provinces to gringo oil barons—but every new revelation seems to give Taibo's madly spinning top another lash: you'll end as dizzy as when the mystery seemed deepest. Except for the violence and politics, nothing like Taibo's previously translated noir outing, An Easy Thing: this one's for readers who like their conspiracies light as a soufflÇ. Read full book review >