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A worn-out gangster who seeks redemption before he meets his maker. The prodigal daughter who has fallen from grace. A corrupt mayor bent on building a criminal empire, and who has the local police and politicians in his pocket. A bitter ex-pat who comes across the scene of a drug deal gone wrong. And an unfortunate English tourist who gets caught up in the middle of the whole bloody mess.
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WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU CAME ACROSS NINE DEAD BODIES, A BIG BAG OF MONEY AND A CAR-LOAD OF THE FINEST MOROCCAN HASHISH?
Would you make a speedy exit or would you hang around to check it out? Would you call the police? Would you take the money and, if you took it, what would you do with it…and what would the consequences be?
I am Damían Vargas, a Brit who has been living in the South of Spain for several years. Lots of crazy things happen down here in this part of the world; corruption, violence, drug smuggling, money laundering, violent weather events and a vibrant sex-trade to name just a few. These incidents get reported in the media in a very matter-of-fact manner, and yet most local people appear to be completely oblivious or, perhaps, unperturbed by these happenings. I found this intriguing, and I set out to write a novel about it.
My first novel project commenced, in an entirely unintentional manner, when I was away from home on a business trip.
It was a cold autumn evening, and I was staying in a cheap, characterless hotel in a north European capital. I was lonely, bored, half-awake and a semi-fictional scene intruded upon my consciousness. I decided to write it down. On subsequent evenings, I started to extend and to embellish it, and within a few days, a first chapter had emerged. A month later and on another trip, I produced another rough draft of another chapter. The second seemed to me, at least at that point quite, to be unrelated to the first. As weeks passed and further words were committed to screen, I began to see a connection between these seemingly disparate fictional events.
My inspiration for the novel came from my regular reading of the several free newspapers that proliferate along the Costa del Sol such as SUR, The Olive Press, Reporting The News (RTN) and Euro Weekly. It struck me that, what in the UK we would likely consider significant news events, are widespread occurrences in ‘The Costa’. Furthermore, they tend to be covered in a very matter-of-fact style that makes one wonder if the subject was indeed a gruesome murder – as stated – or, in fact, simply a minor fracas. I have not been able to put my finger on why this is the case. Perhaps it is due to the process of translating from Spanish to English? Maybe it is simply because ‘a whole load of fucked up shit’ happens with such predictable regularity in Andalucía, that it negates the need for editorial emphasis or dramatic prose. Maybe the locals are so familiar with such happenings that it does not constitute noteworthy news for them.
‘Two members of an Irish cocaine smuggling gang were executed by point-blank gunshots to the head in Marbella Yesterday. Police are seeking the culprit, believed to be a Colombian hitman. In other news, Carrefour announced an exciting new offer on their summer swimwear range.’
OK, I (mostly) made that up; Carrefour did not make any such product announcement. This is, however, not at all unrepresentative of actual news here on the Costa del Sol. Most peoples’ daily life is rarely affected by crime, yet there exists here a huge smattering of soft and hard-drug production and distribution, prostitution, burglaries, animal cruelty, all manner of vehicle-related crimes, minor and major corruption that is committed by elected politicians, appointed civil servants and private business persons.
As a former colleague of mine would often say; “It is all grist for t’mill.”