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Zero Saints Paperback – October 20, 2015
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"This is as good as it gets...a bad ass shot of the finest literarymezcal....and one damned intense, hellraising tale served up by a writerin full control of the throttle. Iglesias briliantly guides us on ahurtling, breathtaking tour of Austin's underbelly -- and firmly cementshis stature in the top ranks of the most original noir novelists at work today. In a watered down world, Zero Saints is the real thing -- ascary, howlingly funny, painfully aching window into that darkly savageworld north of the Mexican border." - Bill Minutaglio, author of Dallas 1963 and In Search of the Blues
"Call him the Barrio Palahniuk, a badass Henry Miller, Charles Willeford in Cholo-land--whatever the moniker, for my money Gabino Iglesias is one of the most fearless, original and riveting writers working today. If there's any justice on this hellhole of a planet, Zero Saints--an instant, wild-ass classic--should launch its author far from outlier status into the wet, palpitating heart of contemporary literature. This is a fierce, nasty, beautiful, sucker-punch of a novel. You'd be an idiot not to read it immediately." - Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight and I, Fatty
"ZERO SAINTS is a damn miracle. Gabino Iglesias' knockout novel manages to merge cinematic crime thrills--recalling the best of Thompson, Himes, and Lynch--with a scathing portrait of the psychogeographical effects of life along la frontera. Relentless in both its down-and-dirty action and emotional truth, ZERO SAINTS is a work of menace and magic and a beautiful prayer for our damaged souls." - Jeremy Robert Johnson, author of Skullcrack City
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Being 100% serious, there really were a lot of people that I trust and respect talking up this book around my various social media feeds and, among those of us heavy into dark noir, it was an exceptionally hot topic. Hot enough that I had to get my hands on a copy as soon as I possibly could. And I'm so, so glad I did. ZERO SAINTS is like nothing I've read in this sub-genre before. Iglesias himself describes it as barrio noir and that's actually pretty apt. It's the story of a superstitious drug dealer and cartel enforcer, Fernando, an unwilling immigrant to southern Texas who finds himself at odds with a rival gang led by a ruthless and terrifying man who might have been spawned in the depths of hell.
In ZERO SAINTS Gabino Iglesias does something that I've seen done before, but rarely with any great success. In fact, the only name that comes to mind, other than Iglesias, is Cormac McCarthy. What I'm talking about is the use of Macaronic language, the integration of one language into the context of another. In McCarthy's case, his usage is strictly a Spanish/English crossover or what people refer to as Spanglish. With Iglesias' book, it's mostly Spanish but he also does it successfully with Russian in a few places. For those of you who are sitting there trying to figure out what the hell I'm talking about, here's a sample, in which Iglesias unwittingly describes the essence of the book:
"Todo deja de ser roca para convertirse en agua. Everything flows. Everything acquires the consistency of shadows seen in dreams."
This is done frequently throughout the narrative, but never clumsily, and it's really quite beautiful, even poetic, in it's execution.
ZERO SAINTS is straightforward, hardcore noir fiction, sometimes brutally violent, fast paced, and brooding. It's also brutally honest at times and looks issues like poverty and immigration right in the face boldly and fearlessly:
"What happens when you cross la frontera is that you want to clean up, find a good job somewhere, meet a beautiful, sweet girl. You want the American Dream. But [censored] all that. The American Dream is as false as the meat in your one-dollar burger and the canned laughter you hear on television. And it’s even worse for you. You have no skills and no diploma and no friends and no nada. You’re a problem. Un ilegal más. A beaner. A television joke. A [censored]. You’re nothing but an issue brainless white politicians discuss from the safety of their offices."
Having read tons of hardcore dark crime and noir of every type, I can honestly say that ZERO SAINTS is completely unique, both in content and execution. It's crime and violence with a bite, but it's also literary, with an underlying philosophy that is lacking in a lot of noir fiction. It's also rife with underpinnings of horror and the supernatural, with elements that will scare the hell out of you. That's no exaggeration. Parts of this book literally gave me chills and it's no easy feat to scare me.
I haven't had so much raw, unadulterated fun with a book in a long time and I can't wait to see what comes out of Iglesias' masterful pen next. And I hope to god he revisits Fernando and delivers more of this delightful, unique "barrio noir" that he's so adept at. As he should be since he pretty much created it. Gabino Iglesias is a rockstar wordsmith and ZERO SAINTS is not the work of a one trick pony. I have a feeling Iglesias will be a name that fans of dark fiction will utter again and again in the coming months and years. I certainly hope it is, and you will too after you read ZERO SAINTS. Go get it. Read it before you die.
Reading Gabino Iglesia’s crime fiction novel Zero Saints brought this word to my forefront of my mind. I probably told myself this book was intense about every twenty pages or so and I meant it everytime.
The main character Fernando tries to make a quiet life as an illegal alien in Austin, Texas, but can’t seem to escape the violence of la frontera aka the border between U.S. and Mexico. He sells drugs and works as an enforcer to make ends meet. But after he gets thrown in a trunk and forced to watch his friend’s head get cut off by some heavily tattooed gangsters, everything begins to fall apart.
There’s a good amount of Spanish in here, but Gabino does a great job of conveying the meaning through context. Don’t let a dash of another language scare you away. I promise you it’s worth it and adds to the rich flavor of the narrative.
The supernatural elements running through this book are on point. This is the first time I’ve seen santeria, orishas, voodun and other not so well-known religions find there way into a crime fiction book.
Zero Saints hits you like a freight train and doesn’t let up. It’s full of grit, desperation, and a dark intensity that might swallow you whole if you’re not careful. This is everything I wanted and more in a crime novel. I pray to Santa Muerte that Gabino pens another crime fiction book in a similar vein (the Russian hitman deserves a solo book).