Two popular novelists have changed the life of Mexican writer F.G. Haghenbeck: the American founder of the private detective fiction genre - Raymond Chandler - and the Mexican founder of the neopolicial genre in Latin America, as well as the biographer of Ernesto "Che" Guevara and detective novelist - Paco Ignacio Taibo II.
So from comic books to comedic crime noir comes Bitter Drink, Haghenbeck's snappy, campy homage to these two greats of detective fiction.
BITTER DRINK is an inebriating pastiche of mayhem, mystery and murder on the movie set of John Huston's 1964 production of The Night of the Iguana on location in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
BITTER DRINK is an expertly blended cocktail of Chandleresque plotting and rich Hollywood casting, with a double shot of sexually charged, alcohol fueled action, garnished with an exotic, Mexican paradise setting. Each intoxicating chapter is prefaced with a cocktail recipe, a snippet of mixology, and a tidbit of the drink's history... just to set the tipsy tone.
The dazzling star personalities of - the world's most infamous couple, Richard Burton and Liz Taylor, hot off the set of Cleopatra; the aloof sex pot Ava Gardner; the "God-fearing Woman" Deborah Kerr; and the girl who would always be "Lolita" Sue Lyon, under the barking direction of millionaire filmmaker John Huston - all come to life, clash and combust with a rapid burning, energy on every swift-moving page of BITTER DRINK.
Trouble is of course inevitable on a movie set where all the actors hate each other, especially on location in Mexico and especially with the Mexican Mafia in town. Therefore the production needs "someone who can solve problems if anything should happen. You know, deal with the local officials." ... "It's easy money. They're filming at this great spot; you can have a few margaritas, get in some surfing, and shack up with a local girl."
It's the perfect job for a beatnik detective/crime-fighter "by the name of Sunny Pascal, half-Mexican, half-gringo, half-alcoholic, half surfer, half dead, half-alive," the wise-cracking, hard-drinking, Colt-toting narrator of BITTER DRINK.
Bitter Drink was first published by Roca in 2006 as TRAGO AMARGO. It has been translated from the original Spanish by Tanya Huntington and published in English by AmazonCrossing in 2012.
It is a short novel of 147 pages and can be read quickly. I'm even tempted to give it another reading right away, just for the fun of it! Even though I am a teetotaler myself, I got drunk on the storytelling. I found this wildly comic, punchy noir story thoroughly enjoyable. This entertaining novel has given the genre a new detective hero by the name of Sunny Pascal, a protagonist I certainly hope to see more of in future adventures.