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Saturday, 09 May 2009

MAYO NEGRO 2009


Translated into English by Helen Oclee-Brown

MAYO NEGRO 2009Criminal literature is an omnipresent force throughout the world. It is the standard-bearer of the crime genre, urban development and the merciless side of the mystery novel. This is a narrative genre known by many names: crime fiction, criminal literature, giallo, polar literature, the detective story, the crook story, mystery, thriller, suspense and many more, which explores violence to paint a picture of our society with all the subtlety of a steamroller. It is impossible to explain the history of the last century without investigating each and every expression of crime. I quote from memory the words of Monsieur Verdoux written by Chaplin/Welles inspired by the Dostoevsky of Crime and Punishment: “One murder makes a villain...Millions a hero.”

The crime genre, in literature and film, is also the preferred option of those who support critical realism, who are convinced that the reality of society is much tougher than we realise; that the truth slips through our fingers like water from a drain; and, that, in the end, when it comes to literature, it is always a case of sculpting mud into a magnificent, impressive and convincing story that, in its raw form, shows us the heart and the courage of the authors, but also reveals their daemons.
The detective crime genre has succeeded in becoming part of our lives. It now offers a robust bibliography through characters created by storytellers faithful to criminal literature. From hard-boiled detective fiction, brought to life by “native” characters like Pepe Carvalho, Toni Romano or the frontier character “Wilson” (beings immortalised by Vázquez Montalbán, Juan Madrid and David C. Hall respectively), to the portrait of the criminal underworld in Andreu Martín’s characters. From the psychopaths from the caustic Carlos Pérez Merinero, to Butxana’s humour created by Ferran Torrent. In addition to the above, we must not forget the real detectives: Méndez, the humanist and terse inspector from Francisco González Ledesma; Petra Delicado from Alicia Giménez Bartlett; Bevilacqua from Lorenzo Silva; and, the security guards Pulido and Galeote, from the author of these lines. They are small-time crooks that float around the police procedural genre, almost life-like as they move through the real world, entrenched in large-scale organised crime from suspicion-free offices.
The rationale behind the criminal genre, its richness and vitality, owes much to its vision of the world, its technical narrative and its way of telling impressive stories on the sizzling tarmac of our streets, amongst the huge neon signs and beggars in rags. This book is about these veteran authors, whilst a new generation has opened the door in full post-modernity and has written their most recent works on the very limits of the genre. Rafael Reig, Juan Aparicio Belmonte, Juan Ramón Biedma and Carles Quílez, amongst others, are perhaps the most persistent or the “black list” , who our friends Àlex Martín Escribà y Javier Sánchez Zapatero would say, have grown to more than twenty new authors who have chosen criminal literature.
Literary energy makes this series standout year after year. Mayo Negro, our annual event discussing criminal film and literature, began in 2004, born out of a workshop course on Crime Fiction at the University of Alicante given by me. It was a pioneering experience that brought the genre to the lecture rooms. The workshop gave an insight into the tools and methods of criminal literature, intrigue and the thriller in all its forms, from the genre brought into being by Edgar Allan Poe to its reinvented form styled by Dashiell Hammet and his followers.
Since 2001, the celebrated producers of this extraordinary genre have come to the University of Alicante. Raúl Argemí, Justo Vasco, Juan Madrid, Andreu Martín, David C. Hall and Fernando Marías have given students an insight into the methods of their work, their vision for crime fiction and what drives them to write in this genre. Along with these leading lights, experts and scholars such as George Tyras also attended. This is an absolute privilege and a true pleasure that comes around every year.
In inevitable fashion, the next step was to open the door to a wider audience. Without putting the workshop experts to one side, a literary event was organised and it was decided to open this up to the cinematic form. This is how Mayo Negro was born, under the auspices of the Culture Department and the University of Alicante. However, the book also summarises the previous events’ programmes.
In the last week of May, many major figures have passed by the University of Alicante: the novelists Paco Ignacio Taibo II, Lorenzo Silva, Alicia Giménez Bartlett, Francisco González Ledesma, Andreu Martín, David C. Hall and Fernando Marías; the writers Luis Valera, Daniel Arenas and Joaquim Espinós; the filmmakers Pedro Costa y Mariano Barroso; the comic book writers Raule and Roger Ibáñez; the short film maker and obscure writer like few others Claudio Cerdán, and a group of experts that have heightened our awareness of the subject, including Àlex Martín Escribà, John D. Sanderson, David G. Panadero and Francisco J. Ortiz, amongst others.
Actas de Mayo Negro. 13 miradas al género criminal (the Acts of Mayo Negro: 13 perspectives on the criminal genre) is a collection of overviews, summaries and in-depth articles on the criminal genre written by leading writers and specialists, who are both our guides and accomplices in these encounters. This book owes much to many people, none more so than to the authors of the texts, selfless and brotherly as ever, ready as always to pull out all the stops for this mysterious brotherhood. They have written in complete freedom and they are solely responsible for the content of their texts. No mercy.
As usual, the contributions from Francisco J. Ortiz and David G. Panadero go beyond their own erudite writing and combine in practice to form, together with the author of this piece, the driving force behind Mayo Negro. Our editor, José Antonio López Vizcaíno, director of the ECU, has once more shown his confidence in the projects that I put on his desk. Without him, this work would have been impossible in these current times of economic hardship. The designer Vicente Cruz, from the Brand and Marketing Office at Alicante University, is responsible for the cover of the book and the posters that announce Mayo Negro’s programme every year. His creativity has defined our style. The welcoming venue of Alicante, with its director Catalina Iliescu, and the Culture Department, with its director Carles Cortés, is sponsoring this new event, in which the Centre of Studies City of Light will participate in 2009 with its director Luis Cruz at the helm. This collaboration has hailed the beginning of a new era in which cinema and audiovisual work will have a major presence in our times.
As a celebration of this the fifth edition of Mayo Negro, readers hold in their hands a book on the criminal genre that has been written, by night and with intent, so that they can get to grips with this great narrative force that only the truly stupid would considerer a lesser art. Indeed, Raymond Chandler already advocated this view when in 1949, after having asked to be shown anyone who could not bear crime fiction, he concluded “Show me a man or woman who cannot stand mysteries and I will show you a fool. A clever fool - perhaps - but a fool just the same”.

 


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