Pepe Carvalho Series

Pepe Carvalho, a fictional private eye, is the main character in a series of novels by Spanish writer Manuel Vázquez Montalbán (Barcelona, 1939 – Bangkok, 2003). It is worth noticing that Spanish crime fiction gained international recognition with this series. Montalbán borrowed the name from a character in one of his previous books, Yo maté a Kennedy (1972) but the Carvalho who is a rounded character and makes his leaving in Barcelona as a private eye made his first real appearance in Tatuaje (1974).

In an interview for ‘El País’ in 1997, Vázquez Montalbán explained to Xavier Moret: “In the early ‘70s we were living in a literary dictatorship: either you wrote like Juan Benet or you were a nobody. Young writers were expected to produce a ‘Ulysses’. The rest were just sub-literatures. One day, in the midst of a drinking session with my friend José Batlló, we were taking the piss out of avant-garde literature and he challenged me to write a cops and robbers novel. I accepted the challenge and wrote ‘Tattoo’ in 2 weeks. The reviews were terrible and they accused me of committing professional suicide, of producing a merely commercial book. Writing a crime novel in the rigor mortis of the Spanish culture of that time was considered horrifying. But for me, it was an experimental novel, because Carvalho wasn’t like other detectives. He lived with a whore, burnt books, was an ex-communist and an ex CIA agent”. (Taken from The Shady Tradition of El Raval by Xavier Moret).

My particular interest in the series is pretty well summarised in Wikipedia: Montalbán uses the series, to describe and, in many instances, criticise the political and cultural situation of Spanish society during the last half of the 20th century. For example, the self-destructive process of the Communist Party during the early period of the transition is being described in Asesinato en el Comité Central (Murder in the Central Committee); the fall of Felipe González in the nineties is the background of El Premio (The Prize); and the changes which took place in Barcelona on the occasion of the Olympic Games in 1992 feature in Sabotaje Olímpico.

The correct order –taken from Wikipedia– of the books in the series (some of them published by Serpent’s Tail in English), is:

    • Yo maté a Kennedy(Planeta, 1972) Not a crime fiction book
    • Tatuaje (Batlló, 1974) translated as Tatoo
    • La soledad del manager (Planeta 1977) translated as The Angst-ridden Executive
    • Los mares del sur (Planeta, 1979, Premio Planeta 1979 y Prix International de Littérature Pollicière 1981) translated as Southern Seas
    • Asesinato en el comité central (Planeta, 1981) translated as Murder in the Central Committee
    • Los pájaros de Bangkok(Planeta, 1983)
    • La Rosa de Alejandría(Planeta, 1984)
    • Historias de fantasmas(Planeta, 1987)
    • Historias de padres e hijos(Planeta, 1987)
    • Tres historias de amor(Planeta, 1987)
    • Historias de política ficción(Planeta, 1987)
    • Asesinato en Prado del Rey y otras historias sórdidas(Planeta, 1987)
    • El balneario(Planeta, 1986, Premio Bunche de la Crítica de la R. F. de Alemania)
    • El delantero centro fue asesinado al atardecer (Planeta, 1988, Premio Ciudad de Barcelona) translated as Offside
    • Las recetas de Carvalho(Planeta, 1989) A recipe book
    • El laberinto griego (Planeta, 1991) translated as An Olympic Death 
    • Sabotaje olímpico(Planeta, 1993)
    • El hermano pequeño(Planeta, 1994)
    • Roldán, ni vivo ni muerto(Planeta, 1994)
    • El premio(Planeta, 1996)
    • Antes de que el milenio nos separe. Carvalho contra Vázquez Montalbán (en Carvalho 25 años. Estuche conmemorativo, Planeta, 1997)
    • Quinteto en Buenos Aires (Planeta, 1997) translated as The Buenos Aires Quintet
    • El hombre de mi vida (Planeta, 2000) translated as The Man of My Life 
    • Carvalho gastronómico, vols. 1 a 10(Ediciones B, 2002 y 2003)
    • Milenio Carvalho I. Rumbo a Kabul(Planeta, 2004)
    • Milenio Carvalho II. En las antípodas(Planeta, 2004)
    • Cuentos negros (Galaxia Gutenberg, 2011)

References: