I have never read either of Ethan Hawke’s novels, Confessions of an Heiress by Paris Hilton, or The Truth About Diamonds by Nicole Richie. I was paralyzed when trying to decide between Monica Speaks or Monica’s Story – the former purportedly written by La Lewinsky, our erstwhile modern Mata Hari; the latter filtered through the considerable pen of Boswell-to-the-stars Andrew Morton.
However, with books such as those getting all of publishers’ promotional budgets, it is easy for worthy writers to be overlooked – even one who looks like this. Readers, meet Norma Lazo. Although she has lived in Mexico City for over 15 years, she is a native of the port of Veracruz and hates to be mistaken for a chilanga. She is the author of Sin clemencia (Without Mercy), available in the Spanish-language sections of Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. In the book Lazo encapsulates many of the grisliest crimes of 20th-century Mexico, nearly all of which took place here in the capital. Among them are the murder of singer-composer Guty Cárdenas, “the nightingale of the Yucatán,” who was gunned down by a Spaniard in a cantina called the Salon Bach. There’s the case of Pancho Valentino, a failed wrestler known as “the idol of Azcapotzalco,” who murdered a priest during a botched attempt to rob a church (and later died in the Tres Marías prison). And then there is Mercedes Cassola, who was stabbed to death in a hotel-room bloodbath along with a gigolo she met at a jai-alai game. Editors and literary scouts take note: Lazo’s El dolor es un triángulo equilátero (Pain is an Equilateral Triangle), winner of 2007’s National Literature Prize, is perhaps the only comic novel ever written whose protagonist is an abused child. One of the best books to come out in Mexico in recent years, it is one of publishing’s many crimes that it hasn’t been picked up for translation yet. Another crime (or perhaps an item for Ripley’s Believe it or Not) is that she is single.