Leighton Gage will be appearing at the Velma Teague Library in Glendale, AZ on January 24 at 7 pm. He was willing to write to readers about his debut mystery, Blood of the Wicked, which is released today.
Just before Christmas of 2007, with another three weeks to go before the official publication of Blood of the Wicked, I found myself at a party standing in front of a lady I’d never met and who I’d just learned was the book critic for a Very Important Newspaper.
“So what’s your book about?” says she.
And did I have a succinct answer to that question? No, dear reader, I did not.
Put up your hand if you’re familiar with the rhyme:
Backward, turn backward
Oh time in thy flight
I’ve thought of a comeback
I needed last night.
Hm. Not many hands.
But we’ve all had the feeling, right?
So there I stood with the proverbial egg on my face.
I had maybe ten seconds to get the VIN’s book critic to agree to look at my work.
And I screwed up.
Now, she’s a nice lady, and I think she took pity on me, so she might review it anyway (he said, hopefully), but I still felt like an absolute idiot.
Dammit, I knew what Blood of the Wicked is about. I mean, after all, I wrote it didn’t I?
But I’d never really thought about how I was going to explain it to people.
Now I have. And what I’m going to say is this: Blood of the Wicked is a mystery, but the action takes place in a country where paid assassins and drug dealers often have day jobs – as cops. It takes place in a country where people still get killed over the ownership of land, where the prostitution of children is commonplace, where death squads practice vigilante justice.
The country is Brazil. The time is now.
From the foregoing, you might derive that I have something against Brazil. Nothing could be further from the truth. My wife is Brazilian. Three of my children are Brazilian. The first book I ever wrote was in Brazilian Portuguese. I know the country from North to South, from East to West, and I have been in love with it for more than thirty years.
And I’m not alone. Almost anyone who has ever spent time there, and has made the effort to learn the language, will tell you that Brazil has some of the nicest people, some of the prettiest girls, some of the most handsome men, some of the best music on the face of the earth..
And natural beauty? It can take your breath away. There is nothing to compare with sailing into the harbor of Rio de Janeiro at sunrise. Sydney can’t beat it. Neither can Capetown. (And, yes, dear reader, I have sailed into all three of them at sunrise. And I thank my lucky stars that I have had those experiences.)
But as you might expect from a place where the income distribution is only slightly more equitable than that of Bengladesh, crime is rampant. There are people in Rio (and São Paulo, and any other large city in Brazil) who will kill you for your pocket change or for your cell phone. Every single member of my wife’s family (and it’s a big family) has been robbed at the point of a weapon. So have I. So has my wife. So has one of my daughters.
But forget the crime for a moment. (Just a moment.) Consider some things you might not have known about the place: it’s huge, larger even than the continental United States; it’s got a population larger than any country in Europe; it’s mineral rich, getting to the point where it no longer needs to import oil or natural gas. It has the world’s second-largest fleet of private passenger jets and second-largest fleet of helicopters. The Amazon River alone pumps out twenty-percent of all of the fresh water on the planet. There are more varieties of fish swimming there than there are in the whole of the Atlantic Ocean. The largest city in all of the Southern Hemisphere is São Paulo. (Which is not the capital of Argentina. Don’t laugh. Lots of Americans think that.) There are wetlands that make the Everglades seem small. There might be as many as forty thousand indigenous people who have never had any contact with modern civilization.
Doesn’t that sound like a place to you’d like to learn more about?
Doesn’t it sound like a great place to set a murder mystery in?
I thought so.
That’s why I wrote Blood of the Wicked. I hope you read and enjoy it.