September 13, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Culture, Spain

I am perhaps overly excited to share with you all the US release of the book Or the Bull Kills You by Jason Webster – an author with whom I had the fortune of meeting some months ago. He’s a Brit by blood, but based in Valencia, and married to a stunning Spanish flamenco dancer. Considering I’m fascinated by all things Spain, when I learned of his book last spring, I quickly snatched it up from Amazon UK.

And I couldn’t put it down. I seriously gobbled up every last word. Not just a murder mystery, the tale takes you on trip right to the heart of Spanish culture – from bull fighting, to cuisine, traditions and the pink press. I knew the storyline would be based in Valencia, but I never expected to so vividly experience and contemplate Iberian culture – something I think I know a thing or two about.

If you like reading, or like a good mystery novel, or just want to get under the skin of Spain, then I promise you will be as obsessed with this story as I am (seriously, if you aren’t, I’ll treat you to a caña). I feel honored to have had the opportunity to pick Jason’s brain a bit about the creation of the story, and more important, to find out when to expect the next book in the series (yes, series!).

LTV: I understand that you didn’t know much about bullfighting prior to writing the book – so what made you decide to write about it?
JW: Bullfighting is one of those iconic Spanish things that – whether you’re attracted to it or disgusted by it – any student of Spain has to look at and grapple with at some point if they want to further their understanding of the country. I’d written books on Flamenco, the Moors and the Spanish Civil War, and I wanted to find out more about bullfighting, so writing this book was one way of doing that. Bullfighting throws up all kinds of moral questions – it becomes less and less of a black-and-white issue the more you delve into it. What are its origins? Why do people find it so fascinating? How is it ever justified? What does it say about the Spanish, and about us as humans? These were all questions I wanted to look into when I started my research.

LTV: What was your opinion on bullfighting before the book? Did researching arguments on both sides sway your opinion one way or the other?
JW: I deliberately took a neutral position, suspending judgement as much as possible. Any other approach would only end up clouding my vision. And the result is that I’m still very much on the fence on this. Not that I don’t want to come down on one side or the other, but the more you understand about a subject the more difficult it is to think of it in simplistic terms. And bullfighting is very complex. So my main character – Chief Inspector Max Cámara of the Spanish National Police – approaches bullfighting as someone who hates it, essentially, but has to find out more about it in order to investigate the murder of Spain’s top matador. In so doing he learns things about himself, and his own violent urges (and those of others).

LTV: When researching the story, was there anything you learned that especially surprised you – whether it be politics, the police department, bullfighting, etc?
JW: The biggest surprise came when I met the head of the Valencia murder squad – the ‘real Max Cámara’. It turns out that ‘he’ is actually a ‘she’. Spain is still quite a macho society, and it’s no mean feat for a woman to reach such a high position in the Police.

LTV: What was the hardest part about writing the book?
JW: I had to pick up the basics of the crime genre, which meant quite a steep learning curve. There are certain rules and norms which more-or-less have to be obeyed before you can even begin to write the book. Essentially you have to work out very thoroughly two different but linked narratives – that of the murder and that of the investigation. The reader only sees the second, but the writer has to have both very clear in his/her head.

LTV: Where did you find inspiration for your characters – from specific people? How was the idea for Max Cámara born?
JW: The main characters – my detective Max Cámara; Alicia, a journalist; Torres, Cámara’s police side-kick; and Hilario, Cámara’s anarchist dope-growing grandfather – all appeared in front of me almost fully formed. I didn’t want to intellectualize the process too much, so allowed my instincts to take over as far as characterization was concerned. I’m going to be living with these people for some years (I’m just finishing the third novel now), so they need to be as real and as organic as possible.

LTV: I understand that there will be more Max Cámara books in the future, can you tell me a little bit about them and/or give any clues about future storylines? When will the next book be available?
JW: The second book in the series is called SOME OTHER BODY and is also set in Valencia, involving the murder of a paella chef, the abduction of an abortionist and a visit to the city by the Pope. It’s published in the UK next February and will be coming out in the US in September 2012. The third in the series is provisionally titled THE ANARCHIST DETECTIVE and takes place in Cámara’s home town, Albacete.

LTV: Will this book or future books be available as e-books?
JW: Yes, all of the books will be available in electronic format.

LTV: Do you plan to release the book in Spanish?
JW: We’re negotiating with Spanish publishers at the moment on this, so watch this space!

To get a copy of the book please click here – and yes, clicking exactly HERE will give me a minuscule cut of the sale so that maybe, just maybe, I can afford to peel myself away from the computer to get some jamón and cheese or something. Happy reading!

*To find out more about the book, and particularly Valencia, check out the video below. (Thanks, Erik from American in Spain, for sharing this!)


6 Responses to “Book review: Or the Bull Kills You”

  1. Sam Says:

    Just purchased (via your link) for Kindle and cannot wait to begin! I think I have soaked up just about every book about/set in Spain and was looking for something new. Sounds interesting, plus exciting to read something set in Valencia which has kind of been my “home” area of Spain. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. Erin Says:

    I’m so glad!! Please let me know your thoughts once you’ve read it. No one else I know has had the chance to read it yet and I’m chomping at the bit to chat about it with others – particularly those who actually have a familiarity with Spanish culture. I hope you like it!

  3. Pierre Says:

    Hey Erin !

    Great post, love to read about Spain, such as the books “New Spaniards” and the “Ghosts of Spain” two books I live. This “Or the bull kills you” sounds awesone and will surely make this aff link work as soon as my reading list shring a bit. Keep the great work coming 🙂

    See you soon !

  4. Pierre Says:

    By the way, just opened today, so you might want to have a look at the book on the new site !

    See you tomorrow i hope !

  5. Erin Says:

    I definitely need to check out – por fin!!! Definitely check out the book when you can – you won’t be disappointed!

  6. Anthony Says:

    Hey, Erin!

    I’m considering which travel book to read next, I might just choose this one 🙂

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