From the Author
As the congregation looked on in growing panic, the man accosted Father Richard. The priest didn't move or stop the prayer, just dug through his robes for a pocket. He pulled out a few pesos and pressed them into the man's hand.
By that time several of the male congregants had come onto the altar as well and they gently propelled the drug-addled man back down the altar steps and through the church to the rear door.
Christmas mass continued and the addict remained nameless to the shaken congregation. But he stayed with all of us, evidence that Mexico's own drug problem was growing as more and more drugs transited the country en route to the insatiable United States.
More than that, however, he reminded me of the drug war raging just outside our happy expatriate bubble. We were an American family in Mexico City, embracing a new culture, exploring a vibrant city, and meeting people who were to impact our lives for years to come. But we always knew that the bubble was fragile and as if to prove it, Mexico's news grew worse in the new year: shootouts in major cities, multiple drug seizures, rising numbers of dead and missing, the murders of mayors, governors and journalists.
But somehow, news of what was going on in Mexico rarely pierced through to the big media outlets in the US, the country most impacted as the drug war raged on its border. US news was more concerned with domestic politics, the Middle East, Europe's economic woes, and Lindsay Lohan. Any stories that did make it to prime time viewed Mexico's drug war in the context of the US national debate on immigration. The real story--the toll that the drug wars were taking on the people and culture of Mexico--wasn't getting out.
I carried my memories of Mexico with me when we left. I poured them into a new novel, bringing a fast-paced contemporary style to a Cinderella story set against the backdrop of political corruption and cartel violence. The result was the 2012 political thriller The Hidden Light of Mexico City, a story from the heart that took on both Mexico's rigid social system and the corruption that flows from huge drug profits. The reviews made me sure that contemporary fiction could ignite popular interest in what was happening in Mexico better than the news could.
And then I met Emilia Cruz.
Well, to be honest, I wrote Emilia Cruz, the first and only female detective on the Acapulco police force and the central character in a new mystery series. Cliff Diver is the first novel in a series which will go inside Mexico's drug war with a style that is fast and a little raw, but won't let go of hope.
Emilia and I are in it for the long haul. We'll see if a mystery series can raise awareness of what's going on in Mexico, with plot elements straight out of the headlines, an authentic dive into one of the most beautiful settings on earth, and a little salsa fresca from my own years living in Mexico and Central America.
The drug addict unknowingly gave a gift that Christmas day. The Emilia Cruz series will pay it forward.